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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Of Rats and Hit Men": Honor Killing

Some who read this blog are aware that part of my professional life was devoted to law enforcement. Fewer of my readers know that I recently took time to translate the memoirs of a former gang leader, who, after many years in prison, decided to make a clean break from his prior vocation. Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that I have been following the trial in Boston of James "Whitey" Bulger (see: with avid interest.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Of Rats and Hit Men" (, Maureen Dowd turns her attention to this trial and the testimony of Johnny Martorano, who is now a federal witness against Bulger. Dowd writes:

"Johnny 'The Executioner' Martorano, who turned government witness and copped to killing 20 men and women as part of Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang, explained to Whitey’s lawyer Tuesday in federal court here that he was motivated by love of family and friends.

'I didn’t enjoy killing anybody,' he said. 'I enjoyed helping a friend if I could.'

If anybody insulted, implicated or roughed up his brother or a friend’s brother, if anybody looked at him funny while he was with a date, if anybody ratted on his fellow gang members, if anybody could eyewitness a crime committed by an 'associate,' he grabbed a .38 or a knife, a fake beard, a walkie-talkie or a towel to keep the blood off his car, and sprang into action. And somebody usually ended up in a trunk somewhere, sometimes still groaning."

While reading Dowd's op-ed, I searched for the word "honor," and it inevitably appeared:

"In a sneering cross-examination Tuesday, Henry Brennan, a lawyer on Whitey’s defense team, referred to Martorano’s deal for a 'so-called sentence' of 14 years (12 served) for 20 murders and asked the Executioner if he felt he was killing out of honor and integrity.

'I thought both,' Martorano replied."

"Killing out of honor"?

Throughout the Muslim Middle East, women are murdered every day by their fathers, brothers and husbands for allegedly bringing shame upon their families. The men call these murders "honor killings," which often go unpunished.

Throughout the world of crime, murder routinely involves perceived slights to the "honor" of gang leaders. This was plainly evident in the testimony of Martorano.

Families - crime families, tribes, clans and extended and nuclear families - continue to demand the death of those who have shamed their eminence, dignity, status or standing. It's all a matter of "pride" and "honor."

When does any of this insanity end?

Apparently not in my lifetime.

1 comment:

  1. "When does any of this insanity end?"

    ...and might I add, where will we discover the next insanity?

    "Columbia's Cons: Ivy League social work program run by team of former prisoners"

    Read more: