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United States v. Sampson

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 6, 2016





This capital case was randomly assigned to me in 2001. After extensive pretrial litigation, in 2003 defendant Gary Sampson pled guilty to two charges of carjacking resulting in murder. At a trial that year to determine Sampson's sentence, the jury decided that the death penalty was justified. After denying Sampson's post-trial motions, in 2004 I sentenced him to death. In 2007, the First Circuit affirmed that sentence.

In 2008, as required by law, I appointed new counsel to represent Sampson in post-conviction proceedings. In 2011, it was proven that perjury by a juror who should not have been allowed to serve had deprived Sampson of a fair trial in 2003. Therefore, I ordered a new trial to determine Sampson's sentence and, over Sampson's objection, authorized an appeal by the government of that order. In 2 013, the First Circuit agreed that the juror's misconduct required a retrial and returned this case to the District Court for another trial to determine Sampson's sentence.

Since then, I have given the highest priority to preparing this case for what reportedly would have been the fastest retrial of a federal capital case in history if it had commenced, as scheduled, in September 2015. I had arranged to dedicate from August 2015 through January 2016 to preparing for and completing that retrial. The government's unmeritorious July 2015 motion for my recusal pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §455(a), and its unmeritorious request that I reverse the denial of that motion, made a retrial in 2015 impossible.

In 2013, I retired from active service and became a Senior Judge. As a Senior Judge, I have been entitled to reduce my caseload and have some of my cases reassigned. As I explained when I took Senior Status, I intended to do so in order to devote more time to international endeavors in service of human rights and the rule of law. Nevertheless, I retained responsibility for this case, which has restricted my ability to engage in those activities.

Except for motions relating to the retrial, I have now decided every matter presented, including Sampson's many motions to declare the Federal Death Penalty Act unconstitutional or otherwise end this as a capital case. The Department of Justice has recently denied Sampson's request that it withdraw its notice of intent to seek the death penalty, which if granted would have resulted in Sampson being sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole and concluded this case. Therefore, this case is again ready to be prepared for retrial and potential post-trial proceedings.

If I retain this case, I will be implicitly undertaking to devote many more years to preparing for the retrial, conducting it, deciding post-trial motions if Sampson is again sentenced to death and, if any such sentence is affirmed, conducting potentially protracted post-conviction proceedings. In view of the many opportunities, and to some extent obligations, I have to do the meaningful international work I intended to perform when I became a Senior Judge, I am no longer able to make that commitment.

This case is now in a posture that will permit the most efficient transition possible to an active judge, who can conduct the retrial and, in the process, become well-prepared to conduct the many years of post-trial proceedings that may be required. I have concluded that it is in the interest of justice to make that transition at this time. The Chief Judge of the District Court has agreed. Accordingly, for the reasons more fully explained in this Memorandum, this case is, pursuant to Rule 40.1(1) of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, being returned to the Clerk to be randomly reassigned to an active judge, as cases were reassigned to me for almost three decades pursuant to the established policies, practices, and procedures of the District Court.[1]


A. Becoming a Senior Judge

I was appointed a United States District Judge in 1985. On January 1, 2013, the day after my seven-year term as Chief Judge of the District Court ended, I retired from regular active service as a District Judge and continued to serve as a Senior Judge. As I wrote to the President of the United States in 2012, "[w]hile I look[ed] forward to continuing to render substantial service as a Senior Judge, I [was] confident that my court and my community [would] be enriched by also having the undoubtedly younger judge who [would] be appointed to fill the vacancy created as a result of my becoming a Senior Judge." Press Release, United States District Court, D. Massachusetts (Oct. 16, 2012). As reported in the media in 2 012, my decision to retire and become a Senior Judge was also influenced by my desire to devote more time to working internationally to combat corruption, promote human rights, and encourage the development of independent, impartial judiciaries in countries struggling to establish democratic governments.[2]

A Senior Judge may reduce his or her caseload, and select the types of cases he or she will retain or take. As is customary, upon becoming a Senior Judge in January 2013, I reduced my caseload and some of my pending cases were reassigned to active judges of ...

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