Sampson asks for new trial in death penalty case

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Gary Lee Sampson (CBS file)

Gary Lee Sampson at his arraignment in July of 2001. (CBS file)

As a federal judge began hearing arguments Monday in a request for a new trial from a man who was sentenced to death after killing three people, the son of one of his victims said he wished the family members could be watching a different proceeding.

“We should basically be going down to watch his execution, not going through this again,” said Scott McCloskey, the son of Philip McCloskey, 69, of Taunton, who was killed by Gary Lee Sampson during a weeklong crime rampage in July 2001.

“I think it’s a big waste of time,” McCloskey said, of the hearing being conducted by U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf.

Sampson, a drifter who was raised in Abington, argues 18 grounds for a new trial in a petition that centers on his claim that his former lawyers were ineffective and did not give jurors a full picture of his troubled life. If they had, Sampson’s new lawyers argue, jurors may have spared his life and sentenced him to life in prison.

Sampson pleaded guilty to carjacking McCloskey and Jonathan Rizzo, 19, of Kingston, after each man picked him up hitchhiking. He said he forced both men to drive to secluded spots, assured them he only wanted to steal their cars, then stabbed them repeatedly and slit their throats.

Sampson then fled to New Hampshire, broke into a house in Meredith and strangled Robert Whitney, 58. He received a life sentence in that killing.

During the sentencing trial, Sampson’s lawyers said he suffered from bipolar disorder, damage to the frontal lobe of his brain, drug and alcohol addiction and was abused as a child.

Sampson lost an appeal to 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

On Monday, Wolf listened to arguments from prosecutors that Sampson’s latest appeal should be dismissed without further hearings. The judge said he may dismiss some of the claims in Sampson’s petition, while he may call for a full hearing on some of the other claims.

One of the arguments made by Sampson’s new lawyers is that his former lawyers did not call anyone from his family to testify on his behalf.

Prosecutors maintain that Sampson’s former lawyers attempted to get Sampson’s family to testify for him, but they did not respond to repeated requests.

“There were available options to break down the wall … of the family,” said William E. McDaniels, one of Sampson’s new lawyers.

Sampson’s new lawyers also argued that his old lawyers did not present hospital records at his trial showing that he suffered head trauma when he fell 10 feet on his head when he was 4.

But prosecutors said a defense expert testified that Sampson suffered 10 to 12 brain traumas during his lifetime, caused by physical altercations and a 1979 car accident.

“It’s our position that one more incident of this would not have changed (the defense) approach,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney George Vien.

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