United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON ADMISSIBILITY OF USP-TERRE HAUTE
Sorokin United States District Judge.
Lee Sampson pled guilty to two counts of carjacking resulting
in death and was sentenced to death in 2004. The First
Circuit affirmed the judgment. United States v.
Sampson, 486 F.3d 13 (1st Cir. 2007). 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). The case was reassigned to
this session of the Court on January 6, 2016. Trial began
with jury selection on September 14, 2016.
support of its non-statutory aggravating factor of
“Future Dangerousness of the Defendant While
Incarcerated, ” the government has proffered evidence
of Sampson's conduct from his decade in the custody of
the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at United States Penitentiary,
Terre Haute, Indiana (Terre Haute) following his first
penalty phase trial. See generally Doc. No. 2201
(sealed). In June 2016, the Court determined that some of the
evidence was not admissible either because it was not
probative of future dangerousness or because it was
insufficiently reliable for admission in a capital
proceeding. Doc. No. 2305 at 8-10 (sealed). Then, last month,
the Court heard testimony from a dozen Terre Haute witnesses,
who were subject to cross-examination, over a three-day
sealed evidentiary hearing convened to determine the
admissibility of the remaining evidence. In the wake of that
hearing, Sampson filed a memorandum, which the Court treats
as a motion, urging the Court to exclude the remaining Terre
Haute evidence because it is “non-representative of
[Sampson's] time at Terre Haute, unreliable,
insufficiently probative of future dangerousness, and unduly
prejudicial.” Doc. No. 2423 at 20 (sealed). The
government disagrees, arguing that its Terre Haute evidence
is “relevant, probative, reliable, ” and
otherwise admissible. Doc. No. 2444 at 1
(sealed). For the reasons that follow, Sampson's
motion (Doc. No. 2423) is generally DENIED, except as
government's future dangerousness aggravating factor in
its Second Amended Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty
alleges that Sampson “is likely to commit criminal acts
of violence in the future that would be a continuing and
serious threat to the lives and safety of prison officials
and inmates, ” as demonstrated by, among other things,
his “prison misconduct” at Terre Haute. Doc. No.
2197 at 4, 6. At the upcoming penalty phase trial, the jury
will be asked to choose between sentencing Sampson to death
or to life imprisonment without the possibility of release.
Therefore, the government's future dangerousness
aggravator does not assert that Sampson poses a future danger
to the community, and “any future dangerousness inquiry
must be limited to considering Sampson's potential
dangerousness in prison.” United States v.
Sampson, 275 F.Supp.2d 49, 108 (D. Mass. 2003).
motion before the Court, Sampson seeks to exclude evidence
related to six incidents that allegedly occurred in the
special confinement unit (SCU) where Sampson was housed at
Terre Haute. All six of the incidents occurred entirely
within locked confines of the SCU while Sampson was within
his locked cell, in other locked portions of the SCU, or in
restraints with guards while in another part of the SCU.
this background in mind, the Court generally summarizes each
of the six incidents before considering Sampson's
specific challenges. Nothing that follows is to be construed
as the Court making findings regarding what occurred, or did
not occur, at Terre Haute.
December 3, 2008
prison guards were distributing ice on Sampson's tier of
the SCU on December 3, 2008. Doc. No. 2417 at
130-31. Sampson was locked in his cell.
Id. at 139. By the time the two guards arrived at
Sampson's cell to deliver ice, another guard had spilled
ice inside his cell through the food slot in the cell door.
Id. at 131. BOP policy permitted Sampson and other
SCU inmates to possess within their SCU cells a broomstick
with a short handle. Id. at 138. Sampson became
agitated with the two guards delivering the ice, and swung
his broomstick at them through the food slot, telling them,
“If I ever get out of this cell, I'll fucking kill
you. You better not let me out of this cell, I'll fucking
kill you.” Id. at 131-32. Sampson did not make
contact with either guard with the broomstick. Id.
at 132. BOP did not thereafter prohibit Sampson from
possessing a broomstick. Id. at 138.
May 11, 2011
deliver commissary in the SCU, an officer would go to an
inmate's cell and hand commissary items to the inmate
through the food slot in the inmate's cell door. Doc. No.
2412 at 93. Three prison officers were delivering
commissary to the cells on Sampson's hallway in the SCU
on May 11, 2011. Id. at 94, 97. Sampson was locked
in his cell when one of the officers approached to explain to
Sampson why one of his special commissary orders, placed at
an earlier date, had been cancelled. Id. at 94-95,
115. Sampson became angry and yelled at the officer.
Id. at 95-96. The officer told Sampson to calm down
so that he could deliver Sampson his regular commissary
(separate from the special commissary order). Id. at
96. When Sampson refused, the officer took a few steps away
from Sampson's cell to enlist a second officer to deliver
Sampson's regular commissary. Id. at 98. The
first officer then walked back toward Sampson's cell and,
as he did, he saw Sampson grab a broomstick. Id.
Sampson then stuck a short, sharp, broken wooden broomstick
through his food slot. Id. at 103-04, 113. He
attempted (unsuccessfully) to stab the officer, id.
at 98, and then threw the broomstick out of his food slot
down the hall where various officers stood. Id. at
128. The broomstick did not hit anyone. Id. at 137.
Another guard then closed and locked Sampson's food slot.
Id. at 111. At that point, Sampson told a guard
outside his cell to “[g]et the fuck away from my door
or I'll end up killing all of you.” Id. at
January 20, 2012
accordance with BOP policy in effect at the time, Sampson was
outside his SCU cell within the locked hallway using a
microwave oven on January 20, 2012. Id. at 146-47.
The hallway was enclosed by a locked steel door. Doc. No.
2417 at 20. The microwave was located near the end of the
hallway, close to the steel door that enclosed the hallway.
Id. Sampson was alone in the hall; a prison guard
was on the other side of the steel door. Id. While
out of his cell, Sampson became angry about not being
delivered ice; he began kicking the steel door, and yelled
for ice. Doc. No. 2412 at 147. He then told the guard,
“[o]pen this door . . . and I'll come out on the
range and beat your- make you my
bitch.” Id. at 148. He added,
“[l]et me out there where there's no cameras
[sic].” Id. The guard told Sampson to return
to his cell, which Sampson did without further incident.
Id. at 148.