Former hit man John V. Martorano today completed three days on the stand in the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, walking out of the courtroom a free man, despite having killed 20 people.
Jurors were shown graphic crime scene photos today of eight of the 19 people James “Whitey” Bulger is accused of killing, including one man sprawled in a bullet-riddled car and another crumpled inside a telephone booth.
As relatives of some of the victims solemnly watched during Bulger’s federal racketeering trial, Boston Police Sergeant Detective William Doogan, who supervises the homicide unit’s cold case squad, identified photographs from the fatal shootings in the 1970s and 1980s. The victims were: Michael Milano, Al Plummer, James “Spike” O’Toole, Al Notarangeli, Edward Connors, Francis “Buddy” Leonard, Edward “Brian” Halloran, and Michael Donahue.
Patricia Donahue, who sat in the front row of the courtroom with her three sons, deliberately looked away as photos of the bullet-riddled blue Datsun her husband was driving on the day he was gunned down on the South Boston waterfront flashed across a computer monitor a few feet away. Prosecutors allege Bulger and an accomplice opened fire on the car because Donahue was giving his intended target, Halloran, a ride home.
“It brings back too many bad memories for me,” Patricia Donahue said.
Her son, Tom Donahue, said he was “sick to my stomach” looking at the photographs, but “if you need to show those photos to show what a butcher, brutal murderer he was, then so be it.”
Bulger, 83, is charged in 32 counts of a sweeping racketeering indictment charging him with participating in 19 murders; extorting drug dealers, bookmakers and businessmen; money laundering; and stockpiling machine guns and pistols.
Earlier in the day, confessed killer John V. Martorano, a former Bulger associate, completed three days on the witness stand, and then walked out of the courtroom, a free man despite having killed 20 people.
“Like I said, I had good lawyers,” Martorano told Bulger defense attorney Henry Brennan during cross-examination.
Martorano admitted that he had cooperated with law enforcement to avoid the death penalty for murders he committed in Oklahoma and Florida — and insisted he was a truthful man even though he lied to his best friend just before he shot him in the back of the head in 1982.
Martorano was relentlessly questioned by Brennan about the plea deal that imprisoned him for only 12 years, and about the money Martorano has made from the government and from selling his life story.
Martorano is a former ally of Bulger in the Winter Hill Gang and testified over the past three days that he and Bulger were jointly responsible for 11 murders, including that of Martorano’s friend John Callahan, whom Bulger feared would implicate them in an earlier slaying.
Martorano is a crucial but flawed witness in the much-anticipated Bulger trial. Martorano was a member of Bulger’s inner circle, but he was also a prolific, cold-blooded killer who received a light sentence for his cooperation.
Martorano told jurors that Bulger was older than him, “but he wasn’t my boss.”
Still, the 72-year-old former hit man, who now lives in Milford, also said Bulger had a way of convincing him to do his bidding.
“He usually knew the right buttons to press,’’ Martorano said.
Seeking to undermine Martorano’s credibility, Brennan asked him whether he lied to Callahan, whom Martorano considered his best friend, before shooting him in the back of the head in Florida in 1982.
“You even lied to your friend John Callahan before you murdered him,” Brennan said.
“I couldn’t tell John I wanted to shoot him,” Martorano replied.
Martorano faced a possible death penalty in Callahn’s slaying, as well as in the 1981 slaying of businessman Roger Wheeler in Oklahoma.
“So you sat there thinking [before accepting a plea agreement] about the death penalty in Florida and Oklahoma?” Brennan asked him.
“Correct,” Martorano said. “I did think of it, but not all day long.”
Martorano insisted he was telling the truth about the criminal exploits of Bulger and Bulger’s right-hand man, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, in part because if he was found to be lying, he would spend more time in prison.
“I was told [by federal prosecutors] if I ever told a lie, I’d go to jail for the rest of my life,’’ Martorano testified.
Martorano also told Brennan that he agreed to the plea deal, negotiated by his Boston defense attorney Martin Weinberg, because he wanted his version of events to be told.
“I wanted to come out with the story ... the true story, not somebody else’s story,” Martorano said.
When Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak resumed questioning after Brennan, Martorano reiterated that he and Bulger had jointly participated in 11 murders.
Prosecutors say Bulger’s reign of terror came while he was under the FBI’s protection as a prized informant. Despite his voluminous FBI informant file, the defense has denied Bulger was an informant, claiming instead that he paid corrupt agents to get information. Bulger has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail.
Martorano testified earlier this week that it “sort of broke my heart” when he learned that Bulger and Flemmi had been informants.
Under cross-examination Tuesday, Martorano also insisted he was not a serial killer or a hit man despite the numerous people he had killed.
Bulger was captured two years ago in Santa Monica, Calif., after 16 years on the run. He was living a quiet life near the beach in a modest apartment, where he had hidden hundreds of thousands in cash and an arsenal of guns.
His story has inspired books, TV shows, and movies because he eluded a worldwide manhunt for years, because of the secret involvement of corrupt FBI agents, and because his rise as a criminal paralleled the rise of his brother, William M. Bulger, to become one of the most powerful politicians in the state.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail.
Kevin Cullen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.Shelley Murphy can be reached at email@example.com .Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph. John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.