Federal prosecutors today said they will once again seek the death penalty for Gary Lee Sampson, the admitted serial killer who has fought off capital punishment in a series of court appeals.
The prosecutors said in a letter to US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf that they are seeking to empanel a new jury to decide whether Sampson should be executed.
“The United States continues to believe that the 2003 Jury, after careful deliberation, reached the correct and just decision as to Sampson’s sentence,’’ US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office said in court papers today.
Sampson, now 55, had pleaded guilty to the July 2001 carjacking and killing of 19-year-old Jonathan Rizzo and later of Phillip McCloskey, 69, in what prosecutors called one of the most horrendous crimes of the time. That same week, he also killed Robert “Eli” Whitney, 59, of New Hampshire, in that state. He also pleaded guilty to that murder.
A jury in 2003 had agreed to hand out the death sentence for Sampson, who was seeking a sentence of life in prison. But after years of hearings, Wolf vacated the decision in 2011 after finding that one of the jurors in the death sentence trial failed to disclose that she had past encounters with law enforcement: her daughter had been in prison for drugs abuse and her ex-husband once threatened her with a gun.
The judge said he would have excluded her from the jury had he known based on a possible prejudice against someone charged with a violent crime.
The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the decision in July, and prosecutors were left to decide whether to let Sampson serve a life prison sentence or seek a new sentencing trial, what could be a costly, drawn out and emotional process.
Relatives of Rizzo and McCloskey told the Globe in September that they wanted prosecutors to pursue the death penalty again, regardless of the process. Xhttp://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/09/28/prosecutors-victims-contemplate-whether-pursue-death-penalty-against-gary-lee-sampson/yoreMgH4Uaa6R0IkY2RNqJ/story.html X
The prosecutors’ announcement Friday comes as US Attorney General Eric Holder is deciding whether to seek the death penalty for Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston Marathon bomber. Holder must decide by the end of January.
Sampson’s death penalty had been the first handed out in a federal court in Massachusetts, and the first deriving from a crime in the state in more than a half-century. Federal prosecutors authorized the death penalty two other times in Massachusetts. In the case of Darryl Green and Branden Morris, two Dorchester gang members, federal prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges and the men were tried in state court.
In the case of Kirsten Gilbert, the former nurse who was convicted in 2001 of administering lethal injections to patients, a jury chose a life sentence rather than the death penalty.