You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

editorial

Bulger’s trial was fair and his guilt is clear

James “Whitey” Bulger (front, R) listens to the verdict in his murder and racketeering trial.

Jane Collins /REUTERS

James “Whitey” Bulger (front, right) listened to the verdict in his murder and racketeering trial.

As his trial neared a close, James “Whitey” Bulger lashed out at the court. “I didn’t get a fair trial,” proclaimed the 83-year-old gangster, explaining his decision not to testify in his own defense, “and this is a sham.”

On the contrary: If one thing has become clear over the course of Bulger’s trial, which ended Monday with convictions on most of the charges, it’s that the judges, lawyers, and jury involved in the case gave Bulger a scrupulously fair trial, which should help give the proceedings the legitimacy and finality that his victims deserve.

Continue reading below

The jury spent nearly a full week deliberating, sifting through the voluminous evidence offered in the case. To many observers’ surprise, they did not convict on every count; Bulger was held responsible for only 11 of the 19 murders of which he was accused.

That was a disappointment to some families, but it speaks to the conscientious job the jury did, capping a trial whose prime actors took pains not to cut any corners. Early on, a federal appeals court panel removed the judge initially assigned to the case, Richard G. Stearns, out of concerns over his impartiality. That move sent a valuable message that the system was bending over backward to treat Bulger fairly. The judge who replaced Stearns, Denise Casper, then did an admirable job keeping the trial on track.

Jurors heard from a parade of witnesses, including some old warhorses of Boston’s criminal underworld like John Martorano and Stephen Flemmi. Their testimony, though often sickening, provided a clear window into Bulger’s world.

The defense lawyers also deserve some praise for taking on a thankless job. They battled tenaciously for their client, ensuring that his legal right to a fair trial was upheld. Nobody can say that Bulger wasn’t ably defended. And Bulger, for all his braggadocio, also could have testified in his own defense. He did not.

Though few in Boston doubted Bulger’s guilt, criminal trials serve a broader public purpose, too. Done right, they establish a clear public record and provide some measure of closure for the victims — who in this case include much of the city of Boston. In that respect, the trial of Whitey Bulger was a success.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.