James “Whitey” Bulger missed a chance to try to “go out in a blaze of glory,’’ but his decision not to testify at his trial will likely not have much impact, in the end, on a case in which federal prosecutors have introduced overwhelming evidence of his guilt, attorneys said today.
Boston attorney Anthony Cardinale, one of the original lawyers who exposed Bulger’s corrupt relationship with the FBI, said Bulger has now proven the opposite of what his attorneys have argued for the past several months.
“This whole [trial] was a big show to claim he was not an informant,’’ said Cardinale, “but at the end of the day, this trial showed he was not only an informant, he was the biggest informant in the FBI.”
“As I predicted before this trial began, this rat would not have the guts to take the stand,” Cardinale added.
When Bulger told US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper today that he would not testify, he complained he was forced into silence by her ruling banning him from raising an immunity defense during the trial.
Bulger alleged that the now-deceased federal prosecutor Jeremiah O’Sullivan verbally gave him immunity for any crime, including murder.
But Cardinale, who has watched the case closely, said Bulger was mistaken. Casper ruled only that until Bulger provided more information about his supposed immunity agreement, he could not raise it as a defense.
“The ruling she made was, ‘I can’t make a ruling on whether you have immunity until you present some evidence like an affidavit — or take the stand and testify,’” Cardinale said. “The immunity claim was very much alive.”
Attorney Steve Boozang, who represented Patrick Nee, a former Bulger associate and sometime rival, who invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in Bulger’s defense, said he was not surprised.
“This whole trial he’s hid behind his lawyers, and he didn’t have the fortitude to step on the stand and have his allegations tested,” he said.
“He’s a coward, always has been. And in the end, he showed what he is, a serial-killing informant who didn’t have the fortitude to set the record straight,” Boozang said.
Boston defense attorney Stephen J. Weymouth said that, in general, defense lawyers do not want to put their clients on the stand. But in Bulger’s case, he said, there was no downside because the prosecution case linking him to 19 murders is so strong.
“Most of the time you don’t want to put a defendant on the stand. But in this particular case, I cannot see how testifying could really hurt him more than he really had been hurt,’’ by a parade of government witnesses who implicated Bugler in the murders, Weymouth said.
Bulger could have taken the chance to “go out in a blaze of glory’’ by finally speaking for himself about his criminal career that spanned decades, Weymouth said.
Weymouth and Boston defense attorney Martin G. Weinberg also said that in choosing not to testify, Bulger insulated himself from what would have likely been a ferocious cross-examination by Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak, who has pursued Bulger since 1995.
“It was a smart move to prevent himself from being humiliated’’ by prosecutors, Weymouth said.
Weinberg also said Bulger would have been forced to answer in detail every criminal allegation he faced, including his alleged roles in the two murders Bulger insists he had no role in, the killings of Deborah Hussey and Debra Davis.
“I think it was the one wise thing he did during the trial – not expose himself to being cross-examined by a very experienced prosecutor who has prepared for this day for two decades,’’ Weinberg said, referring to Wyshak.Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia. John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.