[Video produced by Indaia Whitcombe]
The trial of James “Whitey” Bulger started last week. Bulger is the former head of the Winter Hill Gang, a notorious group that operated in South Boston. He was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List until his arrest two years ago. He has been charged with the murder of 19 people.
Michael Patrick MacDonald is attending the trial in the U.S. Federal Court in Boston. Michael grew up in the South Boston neighborhood that Bulger is accused of terrorizing. MacDonald wrote a book about Whitey’s influence on the neighborhood, and his own family, called “All Souls”.
For him, the most surprising part about the start of the trial was that both the prosecution and defense conceded Bulger’s role in the drug trade. MacDonald says “We’ve been up against this myth that Whitey Bulger kept drugs out of the neighborhood, and people of South Boston for years kept that myth going, really because we all grew up with this code of silence that Whitey had nurtured in the neighborhood. And people started to believe the mythology.”
Michael MacDonald talks with Phoebe Judge about his impressions of the opening days of Whitey Bulger’s trial. “He’s a pretty feeble, shaky old man. And I just can’t see that it’s the same person, it’s really strange. There’s a vulnerability there and that’s really strange to match up with the image we’ve always had in our minds of this really fearsome individual who you better not cross”, says MacDonald.
Michael Patrick MacDonald hopes that this trial will bring some truth to those who grew up in South Boston in the 70’s and 80’s. “The Southie that I grew up in is truly the best place in the world. Everything that I know about community and connectedness and loyalty comes from having grown up there. That said, all those best qualities were thwarted by a few bad people [including] Whitey Bulger,” he says.