James "Whitey" Bulger was one of the most "vicious, violent and calculating criminals to ever walk the streets of Boston," prosecuting attorney Fred Wyshak told the jury Monday as closing arguments began after 35 days of testimony in Bulger's trial.
Bulger is accused of 19 killings and 13 counts of extortion and money laundering during a 20-year "reign of terror" that defined South Boston from the early '70s through 1995, when Bulger fled Boston.
The prosecution took close to three and a half hours for its closing. The defense took over two and a half hours to make its case, then the prosecution had the final word in a rebuttal.
The jury will begin deliberating the fate of the alleged crime boss Tuesday.
Defense attorney J.W. Carney summed up his case by questioning the credibility of prosecution witnesses, some of whom came to court with extensive criminal resumes and who had worked out deals with the government in exchange for testifying against Bulger.
"If you cannot say in your deliberation that I personally can believe (prosecution witnesses) beyond a reasonable doubt, then the government cannot prove its case about the alleged murders," Carney told the jury.
"The government is buying the testimony of these witnesses. The currency used here (is) how much freedom someone is going to get. What the government can pay the individual is the individual's freedom," Carney continued.
Earlier, prosecutor Wyshak said Bulger and his partner "plotted, they schemed, they robbed they murdered together, they were also informants together."
Prosecutors contend Bulger was an FBI informant who used protection from rogue agents as he continued his life of crime. Defense attorneys have argued Bulger was not an informant, and that FBI bungling was key in the case.
"If there is one thing you heard during this trial, it's how secretive that relationship is," Wyshak said to the jury Monday. "The last thing a criminal wants ... is for people to know he's an informant."
But he also said that it "doesn't matter whether or not Bulger is an FBI informant when he put the gun to the head of Arthur Barrett and pulled the trigger." Arthur "Bucky" Barrett died after being shot in the head in 1983.
"It's not about whether or not the FBI in Boston was a mess," he said. "... It's about whether or not the defendant is guilty of crimes charged in the indictment."
He added, "When he puts a gun in the stomach of Mr. (Michael) Solimando and tells him you own me $400,000, it doesn't matter if he is an informant or not, it doesn't matter whether or not the FBI is leaking information to him."
The defense rested its case Friday with no rebuttal from the government.
During their weeklong defense, Bulger's lawyers seemed to have three goals:
One: Try to cast doubt on who killed two of the 19 victims, both of them women.
Two: Shift the blame onto the FBI, specifically agents who either did nothing or did too little to prevent several killings.
Three: Convince the jury that Bulger was not an FBI informant, a notion prosecutors called "ludicrous" in light of his FBI informant card and a 700-page file loaded with "tips" on rival gang members.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Hank Brennan told jurors why he thinks the government has made Bulger's informant status the crux of its case.
"Think about why it's so important, if it's not an issue, why do they keep bringing it up," Brennan posed to jurors
Brennan explained that other than to "embarrass" his client, the government was boasting Bulger's informant status to cover up years of corruption.
"If he's not an informant, think of the liability," he said, recounting instance after instance where government officials as high as strike-force attorneys in the Justice Department protected Bulger throughout his criminal career.
Prosecution defends plea deals
Defense attorneys also attacked the credibility of gangsters who became star witnesses for the prosecution, testifying under immunity after they learned Bulger was an informant for the FBI for nearly two decades.
Wyshak on Monday defended the government's unsavory plea deals with those gangsters, three of whom together implicated Bulger in the 19 murders and various acts of extortion.