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United States v. Sampson

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 23, 2014


For Pretrial Services, Notice: Pretrial Services, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Pretrial Services, Boston, MA.

For USA, Plaintiff: George W. Vien, LEAD ATTORNEY, Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP, Boston, MA; Mark T. Quinlivan, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney's Office, Boston, MA; Dustin Chao, Zachary R. Hafer, United States Attorney's Office MA, Boston, MA; Michael S. Warbel, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC.

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On March 18, 2014, the court ordered that the required second jury trial to determine whether the death penalty is justified for defendant Gary Sampson would commence on February 17, 2015, despite the arguments of Sampson's counsel that they could not prepare to represent him effectively before the Fall of 2015. Counsel reiterated and amplified this argument in many subsequent submissions and at many subsequent hearings. They did not, however, persuade the court to relieve them of the deadlines for pretrial events that had been established based on the February 17, 2015 date for the retrial of the penalty phase of this case.

On December 18, 2014, Sampson filed a motion for a continuance until at least October 15, 2015, supported by affidavits of his three attorneys and others. At a December 18, 2014 hearing, the government represented that it was prepared to address the motion immediately. The government then explained the reasons for its strong opposition to a continuance, particularly emphasizing the statutory rights of the families of the victims to proceedings " free from unreasonable delay." 18 U.S.C. § 3771(a)(7) (the Crime Victims Rights Act of 2004 (" CVRA" )).

The court finds that a continuance until September 16, 2015 is now justified.

When, on March 18, 2014, the court scheduled the retrial for February 17, 2015, it stated that it expected that the parties would work industriously to prepare properly by that date. It also stated that it would postpone the retrial if the evolution of events demonstrated that it would not be fair or feasible for it to begin on February 17, 2015.

The court recognizes that a continuance will prolong the agony and uncertainty of the retrial for the families and friends who loved and lost the people Sampson murdered. Their interest is substantial and the most significant factor weighing against granting a continuance. The interests of the government, which has worked hard to make a February 17, 2015 trial date feasible, also weigh against a continuance. In addition, the court has given the highest priority to this case and organized its docket to devote up to four months to retrying it beginning in February 2015.

However, unforeseen circumstances since March 18, 2014-- some but not all of which were beyond Sampson's attorneys' control--have injured the ability of his attorneys to prepare for a retrial. Most significantly, contrary to the representations made to the court by the Bureau of Prisons, Sampson's attorneys, investigators, and experts had only limited access to him in the approximately four months Sampson was in North Carolina at FMC-Butner to have his competency to stand trial evaluated. In addition, the failure of Sampson's counsel, particularly Danalynn Recer, Esq., to prioritize and present properly to the court the most significant issues has contributed to their plight.

The court now finds that it would not be fair or feasible to require that Sampson's counsel begin the retrial on February 17, 2015. Rather, a continuance for a reasonable period of time is justified. Therefore, the retrial is being rescheduled to begin on September 16, 2015. As discussed in § III below, this will still be the fastest retrial of a federal capital case in history.[1]

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In essence, the court concludes that despite the significant interests of the victims' families, and the interests of the government and the court, a reasonable continuance until September 16, 2015 is justified to assure that the retrial to determine whether Sampson should be executed will be fair and, hopefully, final.


In 2001, Sampson was charged with carjackings resulting in the deaths of Philip McCloskey and Jonathan Rizzo in Massachusetts, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2119(3). As permitted by the statute, the Attorney General decided to seek the death penalty for these alleged crimes.

In September 2003, Sampson pled guilty to the charges against him. He subsequently admitted to murdering Robert Whitney in New Hampshire as well. In September 2003, this court commenced a trial at which a jury, which it took more than a month to select, was required to determine whether Sampson should be sentenced to death. On December 23, 2003, the jury determined that a death sentence was justified.

The court subsequently denied Sampson's motion for a new trial to determine his sentence. See United States v. Sampson, 332 F.Supp.2d 325 (D. Mass. 2004). On January 29, 2004, the court sentenced Sampson to be executed.[2] See United States v. Sampson, 300 F.Supp.2d 275, 277 (D. Mass. 2004). The court ordered that Sampson be executed in New Hampshire, in part because it would be more convenient for the victims' families and friends than the Indiana venue requested by the government. See United States v. Sampson, 300 F.Supp.2d 278, 281 (D. Mass. 2004).

In 2007, the First Circuit affirmed the sentence of death. See United States v. Sampson, 486 F.3d 13, 51 (1st Cir. 2007). It doing so it concluded that " the sentencing proceedings in this case were conducted fairly and with scrupulous attention to the process required by law." Id.

Following his appeal, Sampson had a right to seek relief from his death sentence through a writ of habeas corpus, which for federal prisoners is codified in 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Section 2255 provides a vehicle for, among other things, determining whether a defendant was deprived of his right to effective assistance of counsel in the prior proceedings.

Therefore, the court followed the usual practice and appointed a new team of lawyers to represent Sampson in the § 2255 proceedings. As required by 18 U.S.C. § 3005, the court appointed counsel experienced in death penalty cases (" Learned Counsel" ), Susan Marcus, Esq. The court also appointed William McDaniels, Esq., of Williams & Connolly, which created a team of partners, associates, and paralegals to assist him.[3] In addition, the court appointed the Federal Public Defender for the District of Massachusetts, Miriam Conrad, Esq., to work with Ms. Marcus, Mr. McDaniels, and their team.

As anticipated, Sampson's new lawyers filed a § 2255 petition alleging, in part,

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that his original lawyers were ineffective. Some, but not all, of those claims were summarily dismissed. See United States v. Sampson,8 ...

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