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19 families seek voice at ‘Whitey’ Bulger sentencing

James "Whitey" Bulger.

US Marshals Service/File

James "Whitey" Bulger.

The families of 19 homicide victims want to be heard on the upcoming sentencing of James “Whitey” Bulger, despite a jury’s finding that the government proved the gangster participated in only 11 of those slayings, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Assistant US Attorney Brian T. Kelly said that relatives of the 19 people Bulger was accused of killing in the 1970s and 1980s want to file victim impact statements and that at least 14 of them want to speak at Bulger’s sentencing hearing, slated for Nov. 13 and 14.

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One of Bulger’s lawyers, J.W. Carney Jr., told the judge that the defense has not decided whether it will oppose the request. But after Tuesday’s hearing, he conceded that the judge has the authority to let them speak.

“Federal law permits family members of alleged victims to speak at sentencing, even if the government was unable to prove that the defendant was responsible for their loved ones’ death,” Carney told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Boston.

US District Judge Denise J. Casper gave the defense until Oct. 30 to notify the court about its position on victim impact statements.

The judge said she will limit each family speaker to 5 to 10 minutes and cautioned that they should focus on the impact of their loss, not on their anger.

In August, following an eight-week trial, a jury convicted Bulger of 31 of 32 counts in a sweeping racketeering indictment and found him responsible for 11 of the slayings that were charged as part of a racketeering count. Jurors found prosecutors failed to prove Bulger participated in seven slayings and were unable to reach a verdict on one, the 1981 strangulation of 26-year-old Debra Davis.

Davis’s brother, Steve, said he believes that Bulger and his partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, were equally responsible for his sister’s slaying and that he should be allowed to speak at Bulger’s sentencing.

“I don’t feel justice was served on my behalf,” Davis said after Tuesday’s hearing. “I just want to voice that. . . . I was there through the whole trial, and I really received nothing out of it.”

Bulger, who turned 84 last week, faces life in prison, plus an additional 30 or 35 years for the slayings, racketeering, extortion, drug dealing, money laundering, and weapons charges, prosecutors said.

The gangster, who is being held at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility, was not in court Tuesday. He spent much of the trial trying to refute that he was a longtime FBI informant. The judge barred him from presenting his assertion that a former federal prosecutor, who is deceased, promised him immunity for all of his crimes, including murder.

After Tuesday’s hearing, Carney said Bulger is “at peace with himself.”

“He’s frustrated that he wasn’t able to present the full defense that he wanted to, and he recognizes that there will be a very emotional sentencing hearing ahead and he’s preparing himself for it,” Carney said.

Bulger was captured two years ago in Santa Monica, Calif., after more than 16 years on the run. The FBI seized $822,000 in cash and 30 guns from his apartment.

Prosecutors asked the judge Tuesday to sign a preliminary order forfeiting the cash, guns, and other items seized from Bulger’s apartment. The judge asked prosecutors to file documents related to the request by Sept. 20 and gave the defense until Oct. 4 to respond.

Prosecutors have said they want to distribute the money to the families of Bulger’s victims. Victims included a Tulsa, Okla., businessman, a truck driver giving a ride home to Bulger’s intended target, several FBI informants who were cooperating against Bulger or his crew, and the daughter of Flemmi’s girlfriend.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at Shelley.Murphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.
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