The trial of James "Whitey" Bulger began Wednesday morning as lawyers for the prosecution and defense gave opening statements in a trial that is expected to last into September and mesmerize the Boston community.
In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly painted Bulger as a "hands-on killer" who was involved in extortion, drugs and murder.
Kelly told the jury, "This case will have a lot of witnesses, a lot of pieces of evidence … like putting pieces of a puzzle together," and he provided a summary of some stories the prosecution will tell during the trial.
He outlined 32 charges brought against Bulger for money laundering, extortion and illegal guns, but he spent the majority of his time telling the jury about the murders of "Bucky" Barrett, Deborah Hussey, Brian Halloran and others, describing gruesome scenes in which victims were shot, strangled and sometimes buried in the basement of Bulger associate Stephen Flemmi's South Boston home.
At the end of his opening statement, Kelly slowly read the names of the 19 people allegedly killed by Bulger. "That, ladies and gentlemen, is what the case is all about," he said.
J.W. Carney, Bulger's court-appointed attorney, used his opening statement to challenge the credibility of FBI agents in the Boston office during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and of three key witnesses in the case: convicted criminals John Martorano, Kevin Weeks and Flemmi.
Those three men were motivated to make up stories about Bulger and cooperate as witnesses in order to earn lesser punishments for their crimes, Carney indicated.
He acknowledged Bulger was involved in criminal activity in the 1980s and 1990s—making "millions upon millions upon millions of dollars"—but he said it was limited to loan sharking, bookmaking and drug dealing.
Carney said Bulger was never an informant for the FBI, but that he paid off law enforcement agents, including John Connolly, who was convicted of corruption, to keep him out of indictments.
Carney talked about the "depth of corruption that existed in law enforcement" in the 1980s and early 1990s and said Connolly doctored a file on Bulger to make him appear like an informant.
In short, Carney argued the charges against Bulger are the creation of corrupt FBI agents and untrustworthy convicted criminals with an incentive to lie.
Read a minute-by-minute account of the opening statements here.