BOSTON — A former hit man who admitted killing 20 people insisted Wednesday that he told authorities the truth when he implicated James “Whitey” Bulger in 11 slayings, but he acknowledged lying in the past, including to a close friend just before he shot him in the head.
John Martorano is one of three former Bulger loyalists who agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against Bulger at his racketeering trial. Bulger is accused of playing a role in 19 killings during the 1970s and ‘80s.
On Wednesday, Martorano’s third day on the witness stand, he endured a stinging cross-examination by Bulger attorney Hank Brennan, who repeatedly challenged his truthfulness and his motives in testifying against Bulger.
Martorano insisted that he told prosecutors the truth about the role of Bulger and his partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, in various killings, but Brennan suggested that Martorano was a chronic liar who fabricated or exaggerated Bulger’s involvement so he could get a reduced sentence for his own crimes.
Martorano served 12 years in prison after he cut a deal with prosecutors and agreed to testify against Bulger.
Brennan brought up the 1982 killing of Boston businessman John Callahan, whom Martorano described as a close friend.
“You even lied to your best friend, John Callahan, before you murdered him,” Brennan said.
“Correct,” Martorano replied. “To me that was a necessity. I couldn’t tell him I wanted to shoot him.”
Brennan also pointed out inconsistencies between what Martorano told investigators in the late 1990s and what he now says happened.
Martorano acknowledged that he originally told investigators that Flemmi was sitting next to him in a car and fired shots at James “Spike” O’Toole as he stood behind a mailbox on Dec. 1, 1973. O’Toole was killed because he had shot and wounded Flemmi’s brother.