06/19/2013 06:21 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Hitman vs The Informant

Johnny Martorano, the hitman who insists he's not a hitman, up against Whitey Bulger, the informant who claims he's not an informant.

Martorano, a divorced father of five appeared tired, yet well fed, in his expensive Italian blue suit and tie as he took the stand to testify against his old friend Whitey Bulger. "They were my partners in crime, best friends, and my children's' godfathers," Martorano said, referring to James Bulger and Stephen Flemmi. However, Martorano feels justified in taking the stand against Whitey ever since he discovered that his best friends were informants (rats), "It broke my heart, broke all trust, all loyalties," he said.

The government's goal during direct examination of Martorano is to paint Whitey as a "hands on killer" and the ruthless leader of the Winter Hill Gang. The legal strategy in calling the hitman early on in the trial establishes a history of gangland violence dating back to the 1960s. He was able to document the gang wars which paved the way for Whitey's rise to power. Martorano displayed little emotion as he instructed the jurors as if teaching the college introductory course "Gangster 101." The operation involves planning, loading up on military style weapons, disguises and using multiple cars. He defined terms such as boiler, which is the car containing the shooters, and when they "broadside" somebody, it means they're pulling alongside the target car to shoot and kill the occupants usually with machine guns. They use other vehicles, often called "crash cars" to cause an accident and distract the police if necessary.

Martorano methodically described each slaying claiming he had to kill to protect family and friends. He came across business-like, showing little, if any, remorse. His description of murders during a snow storm was particularly chilling. He had arranged to meet Herbert Smith alone during a blizzard. When he spotted the car there were three people inside. Martorano saw three shadows. He said, "I shot three times and killed three people. My ride didn't pick me up so I had to walk and wash up in the snow." The occupants turned out to be Smith, along with two innocent persons: Elizabeth Dickson, age 19, and Douglas Barrett, age 17.

Martorano did his best to implicate Whitey in several murders as being very involved in the planning and execution as the triggerman. The government needs the former hitman to point the finger at Whitey and portray him as a ruthless "hands on" killer. They're building their case-in-chief.

What goes up, must come down. And, the government's blocks came tumbling down with stellar cross-examination by Defense attorney Hank Brennan. Brennan attacked Mortorano with the following sharp questions:
"You are a mass murderer?"
"Do you enjoy killing people?"
"You've killed young people"
"You've killed friends?"
"You've killed strangers?"
"You've killed innocent people?"
"You don't like the term hitman, do you?"
"Did you look your friend in the eye before you murdered him?"

The defense also pointed out that Mr. Martorano had every reason to lie in his testimony against Mr. Bulger. In fact, tens of thousands of reasons. Not only did Mr. Martorano only get 14 years in prison for 20 murders -- he was also paid handsomely. And, you, the taxpayer, are still paying him. Mr. Martorano was paid $250,000 for the movie rights to his life story, $80,000 for a book deal and thousands more in social security payments.

Watch Jon and Margaret discuss the latest in the Bulger case in a "Wild About Trial" Spreecast Thursday night at 9pm eastern.