BOSTON (AP) — Jurors in the death penalty trial of a man convicted of carjacking and killing two Massachusetts men in 2001 were shown gruesome photos Wednesday of his victims while a prosecutor described how the defendant stabbed them over and over while they begged for their lives.
Gary Lee Sampson, 57, was condemned to die in 2003 for killing Jonathan Rizzo, 19, and Philip McCloskey, 69. But that decision was later overturned by a judge who granted him a new sentencing trial in 2011 after finding that one of the jurors at his first trial had lied about her background.
Sampson received a separate life sentence for killing a third man, Robert “Eli” Whitney, in New Hampshire.
Sampson tricked the carjack victims into thinking he would spare their lives but then stabbed them more than a dozen times, slit their throats and left them to die in the woods, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Hafer on Wednesday urged the federal jury to give Sampson the death penalty for killing “kind, caring souls” who were “brought together by the pure heinousness and cruelty” of Sampson’s decision to kill them.
“That’s what this case is about, these cruel, cruel murders,” Hafer said.
But Michael Burt, a lawyer for Sampson, asked jurors to spare his client’s life, saying he took responsibility by confessing and pleading guilty.
Sampson is not offering excuses or justification for his crimes, Burt said, but is asking only to live a “very narrow and restricted life” in prison without the possibility of release.
Sampson’s lawyers are asking the jury to consider 115 mitigating factors they say support a life sentence rather than the death penalty, including brain damage they say he suffered during a troubled childhood.
Burt said each juror should consult his or her own conscience to decide whether Sampson should receive a life sentence or the death penalty.
“It’s about as stark and gray a moral question as anybody could ask any human being to decide,” Burt said.
The jury did not immediately rule.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports