Gary Lee Sampson’s lawyers want his death sentence overturned after his death

Lawyers for convicted South Shore gunman Gary Lee Sampson said his death sentence should be overturned after his death in prison in December.

“The attorney agrees with the government that Mr. Sampson’s death does not call into question his conviction,” his attorneys’ filing with the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit said Friday. “However, his death requires his death sentence to be overturned.”

Sampson, 62, died December 21 in federal prison in Missouri. Upon learning of his death, the court ordered a government response in which prosecutors argued that his actual death mooted his ongoing appeal against his death sentence, but should have no bearing on his convictions or sentences.

Sampson’s attorneys argue that the “reduction doctrine” — which has been used to vacate sentences and even convictions in criminal cases where the convict is in the midst of an appeal — should be followed for Sampson.

In that regard, the case is reminiscent of ex-patriot Aaron Hernandez’s murder conviction, which was reinstated in 2019 after his charges were dropped following his death in prison.

Between July 24 and July 30, 2001, Sampson “brutally and incomprehensibly murdered” Philip McCloskey, 69, of Taunton. Jonathan Rizzo, 19, from Abington; and Robert Whitney, 58, of Concord, NH, according to court documents.

“The federal government declined an offer of life in prison without the possibility of parole and sought a death sentence,” Sampson’s attorneys said in their Friday response about his 2003 conviction.

His case was retried in 2017 for jury misconduct on the first count, but with the same result: convicted and sentenced to death. The file states that prosecutors again preferred the death penalty to life imprisonment.

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