Given the sordid nature of the testimony at Whitey Bulger’s trial, the genteel atmosphere in Courtroom 11 in the federal courthouse named for Whitey’s old neighbor Joe Moakley seemed incongruous to the murder and mayhem being described day after day, week after week.
But that all changed Tuesday. The monotonous description of all things foul was interrupted by an exchange between Whitey and his onetime protégé Kevin Weeks that sounded like closing time at any number of the old buckets of blood on West Broadway where Whitey’s friends and foes used to get loaded and swear like sailors.
Weeks provoked Whitey by expressing how torn up he was when he found out Whitey and Stevie Flemmi, their partner in crime, had been FBI informants for years.
“We killed people that were rats, and I had the two biggest rats right next to me,” Weeks said.
“You suck,” Whitey said, demonstrating a vocabulary considerably removed from all that Kant he claimed to have read in Alcatraz.
“[Expletive] you,” Weeks retorted.
Whitey’s response was not especially creative. “[Expletive] you, too,” he said.
“What do you want to do?” Weeks said, basically asking his former mentor if he wanted a piece of him.
As the F-bombs were flying, Judge Denise Casper’s eyebrows, and voice, were rising.
“Hey, Mr. Bulger,” the judge shouted. “Mr. Bulger, let your attorneys speak for you.”
She should have told Whitey to wash his mouth out with soap. This is the second time in as many weeks that Whitey has aimed the F-word at a witness. Last time it was John Morris, the corrupt FBI supervisor who Whitey believes tried to get him whacked.
But this time it was his former Boy Friday, Kevin Weeks, who moments earlier had been telling Whitey’s lawyer, Jay Carney, how hard it was to sit up there in the witness box and testify against someone who had been his mentor, who had taught him a lot about life and a lot about crime, who made him a lot of money.
Carney wasn’t buying it. Besides, he was trying to goad Weeks into an outburst, and, boy, did he ever succeed in that.
First, Weeks threatened to meet Carney outside the courthouse and beat him up.
Then Carney got Weeks to admit he’s a pathological liar.
“I lied,” Weeks said, shrugging. “I’ve been lying my whole life. I’m a criminal.”
Weeks even got specific a bit later.
“I lie to my parents,” Weeks acknowledged. “I lie to my wife.”
When Carney asked him if his wife knew he lied to her, Weeks deadpanned, “We’re divorced.”
The only thing missing was a laugh track. But then you realize the loved ones of people who were murdered by all these clowns are sitting in the courtroom, and you realize this is not a laughing matter.
Still, on Tuesday, it was high drama and low farce.
You could see it coming. Weeks had spent the better part of two days implicating Whitey in every crime except the Lindbergh kidnapping. Weeks was growing impatient with Carney’s cross-examination, in which Carney purposely patronized him, suggesting he was a professional witness who had been involved in five murders but had cut himself a sweet deal that saw him leave prison after just five years.
When Carney suggested Weeks enjoyed testifying, Weeks shot him a withering look and said, “This ain’t fun.”
“You won against the system,” Carney said.
“What did I win?” Weeks shot back. “What did I win?”
“You won five years,” Carney suggested.
“Five people are dead,” Weeks replied. “Five people are dead.”
“Does that bother you at all?”
“Yeah,” Weeks said, “it bothers me.”
“How does it bother you?” Carney asked, pushing his buttons.
“Because we killed people that were rats, and I had the two biggest rats right next to me,” Weeks responded. “That’s why. . . .”
And then, the deluge of language better suited for a locker room than a court room.
Carney didn’t even bother to question Weeks about what Whitey would consider the most damaging testimony Weeks offered, about the murders of Debra Davis in 1981 and Deborah Hussey in 1985.
Of the 19 murders Whitey is charged with, it is the killings of the two women he can’t abide. Whitey spent his entire criminal life constructing a narrative that portrayed him as the good bad guy, the principled gangster, a wise guy with scruples — and wise guys with scruples don’t murder defenseless, 26-year-old women and bury them in shallow graves.
Weeks testified that he was upstairs, going to the bathroom, at The Haunty — the macabre nickname he gave the murder house at 799 East Third Street, just up the street from the homes of Whitey’s brother Bill Bulger and Flemmi’s mother — when he heard a thud. He came downstairs and saw Whitey on his back, his legs wrapped around Hussey’s torso, his hands tight around her neck, choking the life out of her. He said that when Whitey thought she was dead, Flemmi made sure by putting a rope around her neck and using a stick as a lever to twist it.
Weeks said Whitey told him about the murder of Davis, Flemmi’s longtime girlfriend, saying he and Flemmi were with her when she was strangled in the house Flemmi bought for his parents, right across from Bill Bulger’s house.
He said Whitey was never specific about who actually killed Davis, only that both Whitey and Flemmi were there.
“I don’t know who did it,” Weeks said.
About a half-hour after testimony wrapped up, Jay Carney was on the sidewalk outside the courtroom, beaming as much as Jay Carney can. He had a good day. He got Weeks to lose his cool, threaten him, admit he lies, acknowledge he never thought Whitey was a rat all those years, and speak like a thug.
But from what I saw, it was a Pyrrhic victory for Whitey and his lawyers.
Whatever the jurors thought of Kevin Weeks, they had to know Weeks learned a lot of what he knows in this life from Whitey Bulger. The jurors had to be sitting there, thinking that all these thugs were friends at one time, and in that time those thugs did what thugs do, which is hurt people and then turn on each other when they get jammed up.Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.