Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bulger Trial Not The End For Brother Of Murder Victim

Debra Davis was strangled to death in 1981, allegedly by James "Whitey" Bulger. (Photo courtesey of the Davis family)

Debra Davis was strangled to death in 1981, allegedly by James “Whitey” Bulger. (Photo courtesey of the Davis family)

Debra Davis was 26 when she was murdered in 1981.

Prosecutors accuse former Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger of killing her.

The defense argued that Davis’ boyfriend, Stephen Flemmi — a close associate of Bulger’s — was the one who strangled Davis to death.

On Monday, jurors convicted Bulger on murder charges in the deaths of 11 people. But they could not agree on whether Bulger killed Davis.

Davis’ brother, Steven Davis attended the trial everyday, and he says Bulger definitely played a role in his sister’s murder.


  • Steven Davis, brother of Debra Davis, who was murdered in 1981.



It's HERE AND NOW. Earlier this summer we spoke with Steven Davis, brother of Debra Davis, killed in 1981 at the age of 26, and on Monday she was the only one of the 19 alleged murder victims in the trial of mob boss Whitey Bulger that jurors could not agree on. Prosecutors said Bulger killed Debbie. Her boyfriend, Bulger henchman Stephen Flemmi, testified that he saw Bulger kill her.

But one juror, Janet Uhlar, told CNN that jurors just couldn't trust that.

JANET UHLAR: The challenging parts were the testimonies themselves often, in that you had people that were criminals giving testimony that took plea agreements. So you weren't sure what you could believe or what you couldn't believe.

YOUNG: Since this was a federal racketeering trial, Bulger wasn't actually charged with murder, he's never been, and the state is now considering murder charges. But what does Steven Davis want? He's back in our studios, and Steven, you were there every day. The jury found Bulger culpable in 11 deaths, cleared him in seven but couldn't agree on Debbie's case. What was that like for you to hear the verdicts?

STEVEN DAVIS: As it got closer, when they were going 10, 11, 12, I was hoping, and it turned my stomach, but not enough to quit. I was upset, but he's off the street, the rat he is, you know. The only boost in this whole thing was Juror Number Five, Scott, speaking out.

YOUNG: He wanted there to be a finding Whitey Bulger was involved, was responsible, yeah.

DAVIS: He - yeah, he touched me in a spot where he just wanted that, you know.

YOUNG: It's what you've been wanting to hear.

DAVIS: I don't think it was fair to come back with no finding on my sister's murder. If it wasn't on the murder, a conspiracy. It wasn't a coincidence that she was buried in one of his three cemeteries in Quincy.

YOUNG: The jurors are saying that that's the one that they just couldn't agree, and it's because of Stephen Flemmi. They just couldn't trust it was in his mother's home, I believe, that the killing took place. Is there any question in your mind? Do you think it might have been Stephen Flemmi that killed your sister?

DAVIS: Yes, I think Stephen Flemmi was the majority of it, but Bulger was there, and they buried her at one of the three cemeteries that he owns.

YOUNG: Well, and so you take - that's Flemmi's testimony, that Bulger was there. Well, but right after the verdicts were read on that emotional day, it was very emotional for you, but you also said something that surprised a lot of people. You said I can understand the jury's verdict.

DAVIS: I can understand some of the testimony through some of them. Yes, it wasn't all the truth. I believe a lot of them that were up there on the stand were lying, but you know, all criminals are liars.

YOUNG: Janet Uhlar, again, the juror that's been speaking out, did have sympathy for the families, you and the other families for which they couldn't find proof.

DAVIS: I don't want sympathy. I want justice. You know, I'm going to get the justice. I'm going to fight for the justice. I have some work to do.

YOUNG: Are you going to ask for there to be a murder trial in the state? Can you sit - can you do this again, Steve, can you sit through another trial?

DAVIS: If I had to, for my sister, yes, I would sit through - like I said, it's not over until I'm in the ground, you know, it's not over.

YOUNG: Do you think FBI agents were lying on the stand?

DAVIS: Oh, most definitely. It wasn't one bad apple spoiled the whole bunch. They were all involved.

YOUNG: We're now hearing from the jurors that are speaking about how scared some of them were, some of them taking aspirin. They had headaches. They were afraid of being on this jury. One turned - reportedly turned to another and said, are you afraid of Patrick Nee, might Patrick Nee come to your house? Now, Patrick Nee is someone who was named as participating in murders, helping bury bodies, but Patrick Nee has never been tried.

Some of these jurors reportedly said that they were afraid of him. Are you afraid?

DAVIS: Nobody. What should I be afraid of? No, I'm not afraid. I have a lot of supporters. If anything were to go on, there would be some consequences so - not violent consequences, but you know, legal. But there's not - that stuff's not happening no more.

YOUNG: You feel you have a lot of support, and it's not happening?

DAVIS: I do.

YOUNG: I'm sorry to even bring this up, but it's amazing how much you are dealing with right now because your daughter, who was named Debbie after your sister, was killed in a drunk driving accident after she spent some time at Gillette Stadium. This is a stadium here in the New England area where the Patriots play, but also there are musical festivals.

She was drinking with friends in the parking lot of Gillette. She was a passenger in a car after the concert, was killed. You and others are suing the Kraft Group, the owners of the stadium. You say there should have been more security there because there have been so many problems there. They are saying that the girls brought the alcohol in themselves. Terrible lawsuit that's also going on.

At the same time, and in fact I understand that at one point you were sitting in the trial of James Whitey Bulger and had to choose between that and the hearing for your daughter's lawsuit. What has this been like?

DAVIS: Well, we're talking like two similar cases. And I wasn't looking for it to go this far as the lawsuit. We just, in the beginning we just wanted to sit down. Underage drinking at the tailgate parties that they have up at Gillette Stadium, somebody has to be responsible for letting underage kids in there to drink, that people getting rushed to the hospital, kids being intoxicated and polluted.

It's the same type of case, you're talking the Bulgers and the power of the Bulgers, and money is the lead of power here. And Kraft has that.

YOUNG: This is Bob Kraft, who owns the Patriots. And again, his Kraft Group owns the stadium and several other businesses. And you well know that they are saying that these girls are responsible for bringing the alcohol in themselves. I guess what I'm saying is you've had both these things going on at the same time, taking on these two very different but very powerful entities.

DAVIS: And it's a fight, and I guess I'm a fighter. You know, I have to fight for what I feel is right and - my whole life has been a fight. I'm getting tired. I'm getting tired, so tired. It's beating me, beating me up. I wouldn't want anyone to sit in my shoes, someone to walk where I've walked and what's happened. I wouldn't give that to an enemy. My strength comes within all of you's letting me be heard.

But I've given a lot of families, a lot of people, the strength to come forward. I feel good about that.

YOUNG: Steven Davis, thanks for speaking with us.

DAVIS: Thank you.

YOUNG: Latest news is next, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson are hitting the road to cover the elections. Our Tumblr brings you behind the scenes.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

February 4 5 Comments

Susan Tedeschi And Derek Trucks Talk Music And Marriage

The duo talks about their new album, "Let Me Get By," and about making music together as Tedeschi Trucks Band.

February 4 Comment

Do Babies Understand FaceTime And Skype?

It's reassuring for parents and grandparents far away from their little loved ones, but what do babies get out of it?

February 3 16 Comments

Telling The Story Of ‘The Invisibles’: White House Slaves

Of the first 18 presidents of the United States, 12 were slave owners, even though some spoke out against slavery.

February 3 111 Comments

Why Bernie Sanders Resonates With Young People

At the Iowa Democratic caucuses, he won 84 percent of voters aged 17 to 29, compared to Clinton's 14 percent.