Lawyers for a triple murderer asked a U.S. District Court judge in Massachusetts to block a second attempt to sentence the 56-year-old man to death, saying it would be needlessly cruel because he is unlikely to survive the appeal process.
Gary Lee Sampson was sentenced to death in 2003 for murdering two men who picked him up while he was hitchhiking in Massachusetts and later killing a third after he fled to New Hampshire. That sentence was overturned in 2011 after it emerged that a juror had lied about prior dealings with law enforcement.
Federal prosecutors are now seeking a second sentencing trial, at which they would ask a new jury to sentence Sampson to death.
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"It is virtually certain that Mr. Sampson will not live long to be executed," defense attorneys wrote in a court filing submitted late Wednesday. "He is very far from healthy."
The version of the filing released to the public did not detail Sampson's health problems.
Sampson's attorneys said the typical projected U.S. lifespan for a healthy man of Sampson's age is 80, and that prisoners tend to die younger. That made their client unlikely to live through the 10- to 20-year appeal process, they said.
Massachusetts state law does not allow for capital punishment, but Sampson could face execution because he was convicted in a federal court.
A federal jury in Massachusetts last year sentenced Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to die by injection. He is appealing that sentence.