With words as ammunition, a defense lawyer fired a machine gun burst of questions at the government's star witness Tuesday in the federal murder trial of reputed Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.
"You killed friends?" Bulger attorney Hank Brennan shot.
"Yes," replied prosecution witness John Martorano.
"Yes," said Martorano, who has admitted to 20 murders and who earlier served 12 years in prison on a government deal for his cooperation in the case against Bulger.
Martorano acknowledged he didn't like the term "hitman" since he "wouldn't accept money" for the killings he committed. And he countered the prosecution's descriptions of him as a "mass murderer" and a "serial killer."
"A serial killer kills because they like it. I didn't like it. I never had any joy in it," said Martorano, now 72.
Prosecutors say Martorano killed at the direction of Boston's Winter Hill Gang and Bulger, who is standing trial on 19 murder charges along with racketeering and extortion charges. Bulger was caught in 2011 after spending 16 years as a fugitive and landing on the FBI's most wanted list.
"My father, the priests, the nuns" taught him to always "defend family and friends," Martorano testified. When Brenann asked whether there was "any honor or integrity in what you did," Martorano replied, "I thought so."
Under questioning by prosecutors, Martorano explained that the six partners who comprised the Winter Hill Gang -- including Bulger, Steven Flemmi, and Martorano -- had to agree on business decisions and targeted hits. Flemmi is serving life terms without parole but avoided a possible death sentence by cooperating with federal authorities.
"Was it a democracy?" prosecutor Fred Wyshak asked, referring to the Winter Hill Gang. "So to speak," answered Martorano.
The former mobster described Bulger's role in six more murders Tuesday, implicating him in a total of 13 killings in just two days of testimony.
In one case, Martorano claimed that Bulger fired the fatal shot that killed one of the gang's targets, a Dorchester, Massachusetts, bartender who was "squealing" about a murder he had helped the crew commit.
That testimony marked the first time that Bulger was placed on the firing end of a gun in a killing.
In another slaying, Bulger sat at the wheel of a car, while another crime associate, Tommy King, sat in the passenger seat, with Martorano behind him, the witness said.
All had guns but "Tommy's had blanks." When the car pulled out "I shot him in the back of the head," Martorano testified.