A federal appeals court today ordered the government to pay nearly $3 million to the families of three people murdered by Whitey Bulger when he was under FBI protection.
In two rulings issued today, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston said enough was enough, Bulger and pal Stephen Flemmi were able to kill people because they knew the government wouldn't touch him and that the government should pay for its role in the murders of Louis Litif, Debra Davis and Deborah Hussey.
Both the government and the families appealed a lower-court verdict against the government; the government because it continues to insist it's blameless, the families because they felt they deserved more for the pain Bulger and pal Stephen Flemmi undoubtedly caused the victims before they died.
The court said the evidence overwhelmingly shows the FBI coddled Bulger and Flemmi and that it strongly suggest that Litif, a bookmaker, died after he told a Boston Police detective and FBI agent John Connolly he was willing to testify against Bulger. Litif turned up dead three weeks later; Connolly now gets to hear "convicted felon" before his name for leaking case information to Bulger.
Litif's family argued that based on evidence he was both stabbed and shot, he must have endured unspeakable agony at the hands of Bulger, who liked torturing his victims before dispatching them. The government argued Bulger might have quickly shot Litif and then stabbed his corpse repeatedly.
The appeals court noted Bulger's love of inflcting pain and said it would not be surprised if, as Litif's family argued, Bulger paid particular attention to stabbing Litif in the liver, but said it had no evidence that Litif lasted long once the stabbing started.
The Justice Department also argued, as it did successfully in another lawsuit by Bulger vicitms that Litif's family filed its suit too late under a federal statute of limitations. In this case, however, the court said there was little public notice of the Litif case and that, in any event, most of the evidence emerged after the family sued, meaning they did not file too late.
Flemmi has testified he watched Bulger strangle both Davis - daughter of a past Flemmi girlfriend - and Hussey, with whom he had a relationship.