Paul Greenberg

One after the other, the witnesses rose to testify to the bloody wreckage the notorious murderer had made of their lives.

The scene was a Boston courtroom. The defendant was the notorious Whitey Bulger, caught at last and finally brought to justice at the age of 84, now a weathered hulk of the underworld boss who had terrorized the city for crime-ridden decades -- the 1960s, '70s, and into the '80s. As if he would never stop. Could not be stopped.

Put together, the witnesses' stories added up to his whole, murderous biography. He listened, his eyes not meeting theirs, offering no apology or even response. Whitey Bulger was still Whitey Bulger -- killer, sadist, sociopath, psychopath, rat ... whatever term you prefer. They all apply.

In August of this year he was finally convicted of 11 of the murders, but with Whitey Bulger, who counts? The toll had gone on and on. The only surprise was that he'd been caught at last -- after all those years of evading justice, bribing FBI agents, sneering at the law in general, and killing, killing, killing. He'd evaded justice for 16 years before being tracked down in sunny California in 2011. Finally.

Last week a selection of his victims, the widowed and orphaned, the walking wounded in heart and mind, had their say before he was sentenced at last.

The sentence was the one the prosecution had demanded: two lifetime sentences to be served consecutively. Plus five years the judge added on her own. As if to make sure this killer would never, never see the light outside a prison again. All in all, the sentence was light enough after all the lives Whitey Bulger had taken, and others he'd left devastated.

To quote Her Honor Denise Casper, "The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable." Nor have they all been completely fathomed even now.

But just for a while, the voices of the innocent were heard in that courtroom after all the detailed, bloodless, almost clinical accounts of one atrocious crime after another had been rehearsed. Through it all, Whitey Bulger just stared down, taking notes on a yellow legal pad, just as he had through the whole eight-week trial and ordeal for those who had lost what they prized most, and that he's he had taken away from them without a murmur of conscience. A father or child left bereft, a husband or wife whose mourning would take a lifetime, they all told their stories.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.