United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON UNRESOLVED PORTIONS OF GOVERNMENT’S
MOTION IN LIMINE (DOC. NO. 1889) AND DEFENDANT’S MOTION
FOR RECONSIDERATION BASED ON HURST V. FLORIDA (DOC. NO.
SOROKIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lee Sampson pled guilty to two counts of carjacking resulting
in death and was sentenced to death in 2004. In 2011, the
Court (Wolf, J.) vacated the death sentence in light of juror
misconduct, and the First Circuit affirmed, ruling that
Sampson is entitled to a new penalty phase trial pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2255. Sampson v. United States, 724
F.3d 150, 170 (1st Cir. 2013).
case was reassigned to this session of the Court on January
6, 2016. At that time, one of several pending motions was the
government’s Omnibus Motion in Limine. Doc. No. 1889.
The Omnibus Motion contained requests to preclude seven
separate categories of evidence or argument. Previous rulings
have resolved the government’s requests as to five of
those categories. See Doc. No. 2259 at 15-16
(regarding the scope of mitigation evidence and execution
impact evidence); Doc. No. 1992 at ¶¶ 6-8
(regarding comparative proportionality evidence, the
unavailability of the death penalty under Massachusetts law,
and evidence regarding other executions).
issues raised in the Omnibus Motion remain outstanding and
are resolved in this Order: 1) whether to preclude defense
counsel from arguing that the government "must prove
beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating factors
outweigh the mitigating factors or . . . that a sentence of
death is justified"; and 2) whether to preclude Sampson
from making an unsworn statement of allocution to the jury
during his penalty phase retrial. Doc. No. 1889 at 10-13,
28-29. Sampson opposed both of these requests. Doc. No. 1918
at 17-26, 50-63. He supplemented his opposition to the first
request after the Supreme Court decided Hurst v.
Florida, 136 S.Ct. 616 (2016), and also sought
reconsideration of two prior rulings he suggests were
inconsistent with Hurst. Doc. No. 2171. The
government opposed Sampson’s supplemental filing. Doc.
reasons that follow, the two unresolved requests presented in
the government’s Omnibus Motion are DENIED, as is
Sampson’s motion for reconsideration based on Hurst.
Motion to Preclude Arguments That "Beyond a Reasonable
Doubt" Standard Applies to Weighing Process, and Motion
for Reconsideration Based on Hurst v. Florida
the First Circuit’s opinion disposing of
Sampson’s direct appeal, the government urges the Court
to preclude Sampson from suggesting during jury selection, or
arguing during trial, that the "beyond a reasonable
doubt" standard governs the jurors’ weighing of
aggravating and mitigating factors during the "selection
phase" of the capital sentencing process pursuant to the
Federal Death Penalty Act ("FDPA"). Doc. No. 1889
at 28-29 (citing United States v. Sampson, 486 F.3d
13, 32 (1st Cir. 2007)).
on Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and
its progeny, including two Supreme Court decisions that
post-date the First Circuit’s resolution of
Sampson’s direct appeal, Sampson argues that
application of the reasonable doubt standard to the
jury’s determination of whether death is justified is
not only prudent, but constitutionally mandated. Doc. No.
1918 at 50-63; Doc. No. 2171-1 at 15. This is so, Sampson
asserts, because the jury’s determination that any
aggravating factors "sufficiently outweigh" any
mitigating factors and "justify a sentence of death,
" 18 U.S.C. § 3593(e), is a "determination
increasing the maximum . . . statutorily-permissible
sentence." Doc. No. 1918 at 56.
this view to its logical conclusion, Sampson seeks
reconsideration of prior decisions denying two other motions
presenting Apprendi-based challenges to the FDPA and
the indictment in this case. Doc. No. 2171; see Doc.
No. 1450 ("Motion to Dismiss the Indictment for Failure
to Include Non-Statutory Aggravating Factors"); Doc. No.
1452 ("Motion to Prohibit the Government from Seeking
Death Through the Application of an Unconstitutional Statute,
Which Fails to Require the Government to Prove Beyond a
Reasonable Doubt that Death is the Appropriate
Punishment"); see also United States v.
Sampson, No. 01-cr-10384, 2015 WL 7962394, at *28-*30
(D. Mass. Dec. 2, 2015) (Wolf, J.) (denying both previous
Sampson’s first trial, Judge Wolf instructed the jury,
in relevant part, as follows:
If . . . you decide that the prosecution has proven that the
aggravating factor or factors outweigh the mitigating
factors, you must decide if the prosecution has also
proven beyond a reasonable doubt that those aggravating
factors sufficiently outweigh the mitigating factors to make
death the appropriate penalty for Mr. Sampson’s
crime rather than life in prison without possibility of
release. . . . However you personally define sufficiency, the
prosecution must convince you beyond a reasonable doubt
that the aggravating factor or factors sufficiently outweigh
the mitigating factors to make death the appropriate
penalty in this case. As I told you earlier, this is a
heavy burden. More than a strong probability is required. You
must be certain beyond any reasonable doubt that a death
sentence should be imposed before voting for it. Death
is, of course, the ultimate irreversible punishment. You must
not sentence Gary Sampson to die unless you are convinced
beyond a reasonable doubt that death is the appropriate
punishment. . . . If you decide that the prosecution has
not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the death
penalty is justified, you do not have to give a reason
for that decision.
Doc. No. 1870 at 57-59 (emphasis added); accord
Sampson, 486 F.3d at 29.
post-trial opinion, Judge Wolf explained his view that
neither the FDPA nor the Constitution "impose a
reasonable doubt requirement on the weighing process."
United States v. Sampson, 335 F.Supp.2d 166, 234-38
(D. Mass. 2004). He reasoned that "the sentencing
decision in a capital case is, in its most important
respects, fundamentally different than any other task that a
jury is called upon to perform in our criminal justice
system, " as capital sentencing juries "exercis[e]
discretion in sentencing that is ordinarily exercised by
judges." Id. at 238. Judge Wolf concluded that
"[w]hether a jury’s sentencing decision is right
or wrong is not something that is capable of proof in the
traditional sense, " and he "initially"
intended "to not only leave the determination of what ...