…And so the battles begin. The judicial chess game. The “trial of the century”. This Boston criminal lawyer has been there many times. I know how it feels. It does not get any more intense than in a case like this.

Witnesses have begun to testify in James “Whitey” Bulger’s federal murder and racketeering trial. Today, the anticipated and controversial witness, John “The Executioner” Martorano, began his testimony, which will continue tomorrow. Already Mr. Martorano has done Mr. Bulger a big favor, with the help of prosecutors and the court. You see, as discussed last week, in this case full of shadowy and corrupt law enforcement (some of which lay at the doorway of the very office that is prosecuting Bulger), Mr. Martorano’s testimony has already provided the Bulger team a viable issue for appeal. That is, should the government win.

Everyone expects, by the way, the government to win.

Mr. Martorano might be considered someone who hit the criminal justice lottery. Although he has admitted to killing 20 people, 10 of which were allegedly done at the behest of Mr. Bulger, he only served a bit over twelve years in prison.

Martorano’s testimony “is certainly big to both sides,” former federal prosecutor R. Bradford Bailey says. “It’s big to the prosecution because he’s the first major player in the RICO conspiracy that’s going to be able to not only talk about those 19 homicides, or many of them, but really talk about how the alleged Bulger organization operated.”

Of course, today is not the first time Mr. Martorano has testified about such things. For example, he was used by the government to convict ex-FBI agent John J. Connolly. The prosecutor who handled that case explains that Martorano apparently intimidated jurors at first but eventually charmed them. Assistant Miami-Dade State Attorney Michael Von Zamft calls him “an incredible witness…By the end, they just loved him. He was so straightforward and honest – you can’t knock it. Juries really appreciate that.”

So, as he testifies, and the government vouches for his credibility, one has to assume he knows what he is doing and how to handle it.

In fact, he knows it so well so as to actually profit from it.

His plea bargain did not simply garner him comparatively little imprisonment. Rather than enter witness protection upon his release in 2007, Mr. Martorano agreed to take $20,000 of the federal government’s (our) money to restart his life. Now, he lives off Social Security and has so far been paid $250,000 for the film rights to his life story and approximately $75,000 more for his collaboration with Herald columnist Howie Carr on “Hitman.”

Martorano, incidentally, denies he was a hired gun. He said he allowed Carr to call their book “Hitman” because Carr “thought it would sell better.” But why quibble?

Of course, the days after his prosecution were not ALL happy. After all, he explained to the jury today that when he learned that Mr. Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi were “rats” for the FBI, his poor heart was broken. “They were my partners in crime. They were my best friends,” the 72-year-old Cambridge native said in his opening minutes on the witness stand. “After I heard they were informants it sort of broke my heart. They broke all the trusts, the loyalties we had. I was beside myself with it,” John Martorano said in a deep, matter-of-fact voice.

Do I smell the stench of irony here?

Attorney Sam’s Take On Rats, Witnesses And Prosecutorial Games

The government has put on a witness who’s history would suggest there should be question with regard to his truth telling abilities. Further, he is apparently known as a wonderful and talented actor when it comes to testifying in court.

Make no mistake, the government is vouching for his credibility.

“But Sam, given the issues with this man’s past, how can the government stand behind him?”

It is very easy. Even a broken clock is correct at least once a day. Not every criminal lies all the time. The government’s position here is that they do not support the way in which the witness lived…then. However, he has since joined the side of the angels and knows that he has to tell the “truth” in order to keep his deal. The “truth”, of course, as the prosecutors see it.

“Bad guys” are used routinely by prosecutors. After all, who else is better placed to testify about other “bad guys”?

Of course, in this case, the very law enforcement agencies who are vouching for Mr. Martorano has their own hands dirty in this case.

Unfortunately, the government is given a “pass” on that and the court is taking the prosecutors’ word for certain background things which may well lead to the overturning of any guilty verdict which results.

For the original story upon which this blog is based, please go to, and

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