Kevin Cullen

A new irony in the Bulger case

US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper

So, what do you think Whitey Bulger said when he found out that the judge who is going to preside over his trial is a black woman?

I’m guessing it was unprintable.

Whitey’s a big reader, and he was always fond of irony. What could be more ironic than Boston’s biggest racist, misogynist gangster having to walk into the courtroom in the courthouse named after his old Southie neighbor Joe Moakley every day and see Denise Casper sitting high above on the bench.


Whitey’s penchant for the n-word is only superseded by his Jim Crow views about how the races should not mix.

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Well, he doesn’t have to worry about mixing with US District Court Judge Denise Casper, because after testimony wraps up every day he can go back to his cell and the good judge can go home to her husband and two kids.

Can’t wait ‘til Josh Bond takes the stand in the trial. Bond was the property manager at the apartment complex in Santa Monica where Whitey and his moll Cathy Greig lived in a rent-controlled apartment three blocks from the Pacific Ocean for 15 years on the run. Bond grew up in Mississippi but went to school at Boston University. Bond told the FBI that Whitey used the n-word so much that it really made him uncomfortable.

Beyond the wonderful symbolism of a black woman presiding over the trial of a guy who truly believes that women and African-Americans should know their place, there’s a deeper symbolism at work.

Casper became the first black woman on the federal bench in Boston by taking the seat vacated by the death of a great black judge named Reginald Lindsay. Believe me when I tell you that Reggie Lindsay was a good judge and a better man. He grew up in the Jim Crow south and rose above segregation and violent bigotry to become a lawyer and then a federal judge.


It was Reggie Lindsay who proposed a way for the FBI and the Justice Department to save some face and do the right thing by the families of the victims of Whitey Bulger, the FBI snitch who killed people with FBI assistance. Lindsay proposed a victims’ fund, modeled on the 9/11 compensation fund and the money set aside for the victims of sexually abusive priests in the Archdiocese of Boston.

But instead of taking Lindsay’s wise advice, the government dug in its heels and fought the families tooth and nail, smearing the dead, insulting the living.

Lindsay was especially decent to the family of Michael Donahue, a truck driver from Dorchester whose murder Whitey is charged with. Donahue was shot to death in 1982, just down Northern Avenue from where the courthouse is now.

Tommy Donahue, who was 8 years old when his father was murdered, was crushed when Lindsay died a few years ago.

“He was such a good guy, and a good judge,” Donahue said back then. “He died before he could finish our case.”


Now it’s up to Denise Casper to finish this case once and for all.

Jay Carney, Whitey’s lawyer, moved heaven and earth to get rid of Rick Stearns, the judge and former prosecutor who was supposed to preside over Whitey’s trial. Stearns worked as a prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office in Boston while the FBI was helping Whitey whack people left and right. He was also good buds with FBI Director Bob Mueller. Stearns is a good guy, but the Appeals Court was right to remove him. The appearance of a conflict was pretty obvious.

But, now what’s Jay Carney to do?

This case gets curiouser and curiouser.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.