Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts asked Congress on Tuesday to circumvent a federal appeals court decision and approve $8.5 million in payments to the families of two men who allegedly died at the hands of former Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.
A U.S. district judge in 2009 awarded the money to the families of Michael Donahue and Brian Halloran in a wrongful death lawsuit after another judge ruled that the FBI was responsible for the men's death. But an appeals court this month dismissed the suit and invalidated the award after ruling that the families waited too long to file claims and threw out the award this month.
Kerry said he was introducing legislation that would require the U.S. Treasury to deliver the unpaid damages to the Donahue and Halloran families.
"We can't place a time limit on these families' grief or allow arbitrary restrictions to deny them the court-ordered damages they're due," Kerry said in a statement. "It's our job to make this right."
Rep. William Keating, D-Massachusetts, has filed a similar measure in the House.
The wrongful death lawsuit claimed Halloran and Donahue were killed in 1982 after former agent John Connolly Jr. told Bulger that Halloran was going to implicate him in a murder.
Bulger and another member of his notorious Winter Hill Gang allegedly carried out the hit on Halloran, spraying him with 22 bullets as he screamed. Donahue was a bystander who had offered Halloran a ride home and was shot in the head as he tried to dodge the bullets.
Bulger was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in June after more than 16 years as a fugitive. He is accused of participating in 19 murders and is currently awaiting trial on federal charges.
Connolly was convicted of racketeering for warning Bulger, who was an FBI informant, that he was about to be indicted, prompting him to flee Boston.