Judge Wolf tried to decide when Flemmi was lying and when he wasn’t. It came down to nothing more than guess work if he had no other facts to buttress his findings. To keep the system running, we pretend judges have some sort of crystal ball that gives them the answers.
Take Whitey another criminal. How do we know when he’s lying? We must look at other facts. He said he had nothing to do with murdering Deborah “Debby” Hussey. His man Friday Kevin Weeks and his partner Flemmi said he did. Three men who are liars telling a tale. How do I decide where the truth lies?
One way is to look at other facts. I know Whitey along with Weeks and Flemmi murdered Bucky Barrett and John McIntyre in the house of horrors owned by Pat Nee’s brother on East Third Street, South Boston. Each man was buried in the dirt floor in the cellar of the house. Debby also was killed in that house and buried in the same spot. For me, that’s some evidence Whitey was involved in her murder.
What else do I know? The house was going to be sold so the bodies had to be moved. They were dug up out of the cellar and moved to a place in Dorchester where they were again buried. Whitey was part of the burial team along with Weeks and Flemmi. I guess it’s fair to say he knew then that she had been murdered. I know the three bodies were buried there because Weeks pointed out the burial site where they were found.
Jurors are told when they listen to the testimony of criminals who have gotten deals they should give it much closer scrutiny. That’s because such a criminal in effect is being rewarded (paid) for his testimony so he has an incentive to lie. It is mandatory, especially in the case of these paid criminals that before believing anything to look for external factors to support the statements.
I used to tell jurors to apply their common sense. Things have to fit. They have to make sense. It’s hard to accept a person knew about two bodies in the cellar but not the third merely because it happens to be a different sex. The external factors are things you know for certain like the bodies were there.
Another way I weigh the truthfulness of a statement is to examine the reasons behind the person’s statement. Statements against interest (admissions, confessions) are admitted in evidence because it is our common belief that people will not make such statements unless they are true. Self-serving statements are normally excluded. I ask what has the person to gain or lose.
Go back to the Debbie Hussey murder. Flemmi told us Whitey murdered her. I’d tend not to believe that because she was Flemmi’s step-daughter and he’d want to switch the blame from himself to Whitey. Weeks also said Whitey murdered her. I tend to believe him because he had nothing to gain from putting it on Whitey. He would have gotten his deal if left Whitey out of the murder. That tendency plus the other things I talked about make me fairly certain Whitey killed Debbie. The jury agreed with this assessment.
In trekking toward the truth I put all the statements made by people in the Whitey saga to that test. Doing it is a step by step process. In that way I think we can come close to the truth.
One further note: Judge Wolf did look for other evidence to support his conclusion that Flemmi was telling the truth about the identity of his state police source. He pointed out that the source had been convicted of corruption. There too he erred. The source had been acquitted.
So there’s a lesson in that. The support also has to be correct. It’s a trek and when its over we can decide if it was worth taking. There are no short cuts as we’ve seen when others tried to take the same journey and lost the truth.