Hollow justice

By DAVID BOERI  |  October 5, 2011

That's true despite the two prosecutors in the upcoming trial, Wyshak and Kelly, who have been relentless in their drive to bring Bulger to justice against all odds. They have fought the dead-enders inside the Department of Justice and the FBI. They would almost certainly have gone farther than Durham ever did if they had been given a free hand.

But by choosing to try Bulger on the 19 murder charges instead of a more sweeping racketeering indictment, the government has chosen to make this trial a narrower affair. We won't likely see the wider conspiratorial net that involves more FBI agents than Connolly alone, the useful "lone gun" on whom Durham put the blame. And we shouldn't expect new revelations unless they come from the defense.

Wolf's determination in the '90s was not without consequence. To this day, prosecutors in the US Attorney's Office display resentment and hostility, speaking disparagingly of Wolf outside the range of his hearing. Wolf can be long-winded, self-inflated, and arrogant even in the eyes of his admirers. But at the critical time, he had opened the windows to let the truth in, when the Justice Department wouldn't. And after Bulger's arrest in June, the US Attorney's Office made an end run around Wolf, who seemed likely to oversee the coming trial, to have the case heard by another judge (see "Whitey Bulger and the Feds: the Final Act"). Among the collateral damage was the loss of the defense attorney Wolf was set to appoint for Bulger: Max Stern, a brilliant and tenacious lawyer with a longstanding reputation for digging deeply into government misconduct.  

>> READ: "Whitey Bulger and the Feds: The final act" by Harvey Silverglate <<

What has happened since Bulger's sudden arrest is truly a shame, because this story is about something much more vital and enduring than the man himself. After all, Bulger is just an accused murderer, like many before and many sure to come. The "Bulger saga" is, more important, about our institutions, and whether we can, and should, trust them.

Of the Bulger case, retired State Superior Court Judge Robert Barton once observed to me: "This is the worst of the worst. And it's going to be a stain on the FBI for a generation." Without an accounting to restore our faith in both the FBI and the Justice Department, Barton's words may turn out to be understatement.

David Boeri is senior reporter for WBUR 90.9 FM, Boston's NPR news station. He can reached at dboeri@wbur.bu.edu.

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Related: Whitey Bulger and the Feds: The final act, BOOK EXCERPT: Just Don't Clip Anyone: First days as an informant, Brass balls and cold steel, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Crime, Santa Monica, Whitey Bulger,  More more >
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  •   HOLLOW JUSTICE  |  October 05, 2011
    When Whitey Bulger was arrested in Santa Monica, California, this summer, it may have seemed that a new day had dawned for the local FBI and for the Justice Department.
    I get a lot of calls about Bulger, but this one was different.

 See all articles by: DAVID BOERI