Finally Explained — Why Was Jimmy Not Whacked For Killing Billy Batts in Goodfellas?
In Martin Scorsese’s classic mob drama Goodfellas, Joe Pesci’s — Tommy DeVito infamously lashes out against fellow mobster Billy Bats. Welcome to Awesome Definition and today we are going to Finally Explained — Why Was Jimmy Not Whacked For Killing Billy Batts in Goodfellas?
Batts had just done a six-year stint in prison and was celebrating his release when DeVito enters at the bar. He becomes noticeably irritated that Batts is also there mumbling to protagonist Henry Hill that he forgot Billy Batts was being released today. He reluctantly goes over to greet Billy Batts and concludes the greeting by warning Batts not to break his balls. In other words not to make fun out of him, Batts has clearly noticed DeVito’s attitude and could possibly have been intentionally insults him perhaps Batts was just looking for a reaction from Tommy when he tells the tale of how DeVito was an excellent shoe polisher, so good he could make his shoes look like mirrors.
This clear dig at an already aggravated DeVito accumulates into a verbal spout with Batts saying the line we all know and love “go home and get your shine box” and DeVito leaves only to return presumably a few hours later and sucker punches Batts to the floor. DeVito’s friend Jimmy Conway also joins in and kicks and punches Batts into unconsciousness with the hapless Henry Hill watching on anxiously. They go on to kill Batts and bury him and Henry narrates to us why exactly this is such a problem?
Batts was a Made Guy in the Gambino crime family meaning he was of such a rank in the Mafia that he was untouchable and to kill a Made Guy without getting the OK from the higher-ups would result in serious repercussions usually death. Eventually Tommy’s actions come back to haunt him later in the film only for him to be abruptly shot in an straighten murder that was clearly sanctioned by those who matter, including Tommy’s boss Paul Cicero as revenge for Billy Batts.
One of the most interesting questions about this segment of the film is why exactly was Jimmy Conway not punished for his involvement in the killing of Batts? He played as much of a part in the murder and surely it would be easier to sanction his death as since he was a Non-Italian. The highest rank he could ever achieve in the Mafia was an Associate.
Well before we look into this we should first ask ourselves why did Jimmy put himself in such a risky situation in the first place? There is a vested interest Jimmy had in getting Batts out of the way. Jimmy was running one of Batts rackets while he was away in prison and made a lot of money from it and now that he was out Batts wanted it back but Jimmy didn’t want to hand it back over. This is briefly touched upon in the movie when Batts says that he did his time and he’s come home and he’s got mouths to feed just before he is ambushed by Tommy and Jimmy.
So back to why was Jimmy not punished? Tommy is already considered to be a bad seed by Paulie, one who causes too much trouble. Losing Henry and Jimmy would have impacted him financially a great deal so it would be better for one person to die in a fair and equitable consideration for the murder of Batts. Paulie even mentions that Jimmy is a great earner so to lose him would be a blow. Jimmy was one of the highest earners in the family despite not being a made guy, he makes a lot of money in Paulie’s pockets. As Henry mentioned he wasn’t only killed because of Batts but for a whole lot of other unmentioned reasons.
It could also be that there was never a reason to have Jimmy whacked in the first place because no one would know he was involved. When Tommy threatens and abuses Batts there were Batts people in the bar. Both Jimmy’s and Henry’s interactions with Batts are respectable and sincere by the time he’s beaten up none of Batts crew were in the bar so there was little reason to suspect Jimmy or Henry had anything to do with the matter. So Paulie could shift full responsibility on Tommy and have the matter ended with his execution in real life.