By Denise LaVoie, AP Legal Affairs Writer

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — A federal judge on Thursday threw out the death penalty against a man convicted of killing three people in Massachusetts and New Hampshire during a weeklong crime spree in 2001 and ordered a new trial.

Chief U.S. Disrict Judge Mark Wolf ruled that Gary Sampson was denied his constitutional right to have his sentence decided by an impartial jury and that he is “entitled to a new trial to determine whether the death penalty is justified in his case.”

Read: The Ruling (.pdf)

Sampson, a drifter who was raised in Abington, pleaded guilty to carjacking two Massachusetts men after each picked him up hitchhiking.

WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields reports

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.

He then fled to New Hampshire, broke into a house in Meredith and strangled a third man.

In a motion for a new trial, Sampson’s lawyers argued that three jurors had given inaccurate answers to questions they were asked during the jury selection process.

Wolf found that one of the jurors had intentionally and repeatedly answered questions dishonestly in an attempt to avoid talking about subjects that were painful to her.

She never disclosed, for example, that her husband had a rifle and had threatened to shoot her, that she had ended her marriage because of her husband’s substance abuse and that her daughter had served time in prison because of a drug problem.

Wolf said in his ruling that if the woman had disclosed those things during the jury selection process, the court would have found that there was a “high risk” that after listening to the evidence at Sampson’s trial, her decision on whether to sentence Sampson to death could have been influenced by her life experiences.

Wolf said the woman likely would have been excused from serving on the jury.

“In essence, despite dedicated efforts by the parties and the court to assure that the trial would be fair and the verdict final, it has now been proven that perjury by a juror resulted in a violation of Sampson’s constitutional right to have the issue of whether he should live or die decided by twelve women and men who were each capable of deciding that most consequential question impartially,” Wolf wrote.

Michael Rizzo, the father of victim Jonathan Rizzo believes Judge Wolf has an anti-death penalty agenda.

“It’s been clear to me this is his agenda and he finally found a lever to push to make it happen or at least get another shot at it,” said Rizzo.

Referring to Sampson, Rizzo says, “He still breathes, he’s still alive and able to do some things. It doesn’t seem right to me, doesn’t seem like justice.”

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager got reaction from families

Scott McCloskey, the son of victim Philip McCloskey is outraged there is no closure.

“We have to go through this again,” he says. “It’s absurd, there’s no reason to do this again.”

Prosecutors had no immediate comment on the ruling.

“We just received notification and we’re reviewing the order,” said Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (8)
  1. Bonzai says:

    HE PLEAD GUILTY!! Why is he even allowed an appeal???

  2. cgm says:

    Just when I thought that Judge Wolf was on track with the Dimasi matter he does this.Put this guy down like the dog he is.

  3. thor's hammer says:

    oh please!!!! he brutally murdered 3 innocent people. what about their rights & those of their loved ones. the good people of the commonwealth have picked up the tab for this lowlife for far too long. would that all this time he was in a 4 foot in diameter cell, with a slot on the door for pushing his meal thru, and limited electricity. certainly, there should be no perks for him or any inmate i.e. computer, phone, education, etc. justice is being denied to the victims. my condolences to the family and friends of the victims, who continue to be impacted .

  4. BobJ says:

    Let’s waste more taxpayer dollars on this dirtbag. Everyone wonders why these crimes happen. NO CONSEQUENCES!!!!! thats why.

  5. chilitokid says:

    I’m so glad I live in NH. If this POS showed up at my house he’d get one between the eyes. Why do people let the justice system into the equation? I read a cartoon the other day: Why do you need to have sex when your Government f**** you every day?

  6. Kim L. Short says:

    This sort of situation is just Chicken Soup for the Terrorist Soul.

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