BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge has been probing whether three members of a jury that imposed the death penalty on a Massachusetts man lied when they filled out their jury questionnaires prior to the 2003 trial.
Gary Lee Sampson was convicted of killing three people during a weeklong crime spree in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. His lawyer is seeking a new trial on several grounds, including potential jury misconduct.
The Boston Globe, citing court documents, reported Monday that U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf has spoken to three of the jurors, who were not identified.
One woman acknowledged that she did not reveal that her daughter once worked for the Sanibel, Fla., police department and that her daughter went to prison on a drug charge in 1998.
Another juror failed to disclose that her boyfriend was once a university police officer and a third juror did not reveal that he had been prosecuted for driving to endanger and driving without a license, according to transcripts of the interviews with the judge.
Sampson’s attorney, William McDaniels, said in court papers that lawyers were entitled to know before the trial if any of the jurors had a potential bias toward law enforcement.
“Mr. Sampson’s constitutional right to a fair trial would be violated if even a single juror were biased against him,” said McDaniels.
The incorrect information on the questionnaires may have resulted from misunderstandings by the jurors or embarrassment over things that had happened in the past, prosecutors said. For example, the woman whose daughter had been in prison told the judge she was ashamed of what had happened and did not want to acknowledge it.
Prosecutors stated that even if the jurors did make false statements, it would not have affected the jury’s decision in the first-ever federal death penalty case in Massachusetts, which does not have state death penalty.
Wolf has not ruled on whether Sampson is entitled to a new trial.
Sampson pleaded guilty to carjacking and killing Jonathan Rizzo, a 19-year-old college student from Kingston, and Philip McLoskey, 69, of Taunton, in July 2001. Sampson admitted 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.
(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)