James “Whitey” Bulger will die in custody. Even the former South Boston crime boss himself seems to realize that; in a letter to a friend, reported in Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy’s new biography, he acknowledged he has little hope of ever being a free man again. Even if Bulger somehow managed to beat the federal murder and racketeering case against him, additional murder charges are waiting in two states.
Yet the way the final chapter of Bulger’s criminal career unfolds still matters. For the families of his victims, a trial offers an opportunity for some closure. For the justice system itself, which was tainted for so long by its corrupt relationship with Bulger, the trial provides an opportunity to achieve a needed measure of redemption.