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At the center of all this murder and mayhem is one man, the defendant in this case, James Bulger.
—Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly, opening statement
It was a note from a killer. A handwritten letter, nestled between bills in the mailbox, and postmarked ten days after a jury rendered a verdict at his trial. From: Whitey Bulger. The man accused of murdering nineteen people had written to us, wanting to tell his side of the story.
We couldn't open it.
We, Margaret McLean and Jon Leiberman, had joined forces to cover the sensational trial and write about it. Margaret is a former Boston-area prosecutor, legal analyst, and law professor at Boston College. Jon reported for America's Most Wanted and traveled around the world with the FBI task force searching for Whitey while he was a fugitive from justice.
Why couldn't we open that letter? We had formed intimate bonds with victims' relatives and members of law enforcement who had pursued Whitey for decades. They had helped us for months with this complicated case, given us their time.
Including a letter from Whitey in our coverage of the story felt like a betrayal. We fought about it. Was it the right thing to do? Our friends had experienced the murder of loved ones. Other friends had been tortured and beaten by Whitey. Those memories were painful for them, but they had learned to trust us and had shared private moments and feelings. Allowing Whitey to have his say felt wrong.
The trial itself had been overwhelming. Another friend and key prosecution witness had been murdered mid-trial. Silenced. He never had the chance to testify.
We became aware of the conflicts raging beneath the surface before the trial even started. Victims' relatives came to us for advice, torn over which side to root for at trial. We wondered how could that be? Don't victims always want the prosecution to win? Neither of us had seen that. We knew the trial would reveal decades of terror, extortion, and bodies buried in unmarked graves. Machine guns. A beautiful girl, strangled and buried in the basement. A brown-stained, grinning skull … and she was known for her smile.
The evidence of violence was overwhelming, so why weren't the victims rooting 100 percent for the prosecution? The government typically upholds the principles of truth and justice, right?
We learned that Whitey's trial was far from black-and-white. It contained murky layers involving government leaks of top secret information that had caused innocent people to be killed. The massive-scale cover up and corruption went all the way up from Boston to the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Top echelon FBI informants were murdered while the government looked the other way.
We opened that letter, and we are sorry for the pain it will inflict on some of our friends. We did it to expose the truth, and sometimes we need to hear it from all angles. A copy of Whitey's letter has been included toward the end of the book.
What follows is an eyewitness account of the Whitey Bulger trial and countless interviews with people intimately connected to the case.
Copyright © 2014 by Margaret McLean and Jon Leiberman