Mass. judge to hold hearing in Sampson death penalty case
Federal prosecutors and defense lawyers are due in court next week in the case of a convicted killer from Massachusetts who faces a second trial on whether he should receive the death penalty.
Gary Lee Sampson, a drifter who grew up in Abington, Mass., pleaded guilty to federal charges for killing two men in Massachusetts and was sentenced to death. He also pleaded guilty to separate state charges for killing a man in New Hampshire during the same weeklong crime spree in 2001.
U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf threw out Sampson’s sentence in 2011 in a ruling that later was upheld by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Prosecutors said last month that they will seek the death penalty a second time during a resentencing trial.
A status hearing is scheduled in court Tuesday.
Sampson pleaded guilty to carjacking and killing Jonathan Rizzo, 19, of Kingston, Mass., and Philip McCloskey, 69, of Taunton, Mass. He told the police he forced both men to drive to secluded areas, assured them he only wanted their cars, then stabbed them repeatedly and slit their throats. Sampson fled to New Hampshire, where he broke into a house in Meredith and strangled Robert Whitney, a former city councilor from Concord.
In a court filing last month, federal prosecutors said they plan to ask Wolf to set a date for a new sentencing trial during Tuesday’s status conference.
They also asked Wolf to revisit a decision he made in 2010 when the judge found that it was not necessary for him to recuse himself from the case despite a personal relationship he has with one of the prosecutors. Wolf worked at the same law office as the prosecutor’s father-in-law from 1977 to 1981, attended the prosecutor’s wedding and has occasionally given him and his wife career advice.
Sampson became the first person sentenced to death in Massachusetts under the federal death penalty law. Massachusetts does not have a state death penalty.