It was a day of raw emotions in federal court Wednesday as the relatives of the victims of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger tried to confront him face-to-face prior to his sentencing Thursday -- and Bulger refused to engage them.
As the relatives of the people harmed by Bulger delivered their statements, they had a few consistent messages. By killing their loved ones, Bulger had caused irreparable harm, they said. They relished the idea of Bulger spending the rest of his life in a tiny prison cell and they scoffed at Bulger’s romantic self-mythology, saying that instead of an Irish-American Robin Hood, Bulger is really a rat and a coward.
Throughout these remarks, Bulger refused to look at his victims’ family members. But when Steven Davis took the stand -- that changed.
Prosecutors failed to prove that Bulger murdered or helped murder Davis’s sister, Debra, but Judge Denise Casper allowed him to address the court anyway.
Davis lashed out at Bulger, saying: “Look at me, you piece of shit!”
In response, Bulger took off his glasses – briefly turned his heard toward Davis – and then looked away again. Afterward, Davis said that while he didn’t mean to disrespect the court – it was hard to keep his emotions in check.
"Just brings back the memories of when we were kids, you know? It’s all you can do is go back to when we were kids, little secrets her and I held with each other, the things we did as children, and that’s all I can remember. Teenage and 20, 22, 23, we started to make lives for ourselves, going different ways, but we were always in touch, and you can’t do that anymore. It’s done. He took that from us," Davis said outside of court after the sentencing hearing. “There’s no closure for this.”
Others who spoke today were more upbeat. Kathleen Connors Nichols’ father Eddie Connors was killed in a phone booth on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester in 1975. She said her statement marks the end of a healing process that’s been going on for years.
"My six brothers and sisters and I, we’ve kind of settled this in our hearts several years ago, so for us, closure, coming to court, that was just a formality. So the fact he didn’t come around, didn’t face anybody – I do think he’s a coward. He couldn’t face his accusers. But we didn’t need that," she said outside of the courthouse.
Bulger returns to court for sentencing Wednesday. Prosecutors are requesting two life sentences – plus an additional five years.
Find more coverage of the James "Whitey" Bulger trial here.