A Boston man has made an apparently unprecedented guilty plea in a federal death penalty case, the Boston Globe reports. Gary Lee Sampson, 43, admitted yesterday to carjacking and murdering two Massachusetts men in 2001, heading straight to the case’s punishment phase. Jury selection begins next week in U.S. District Court in Boston.
The prosecution will focus on the heinousness of Sampson’s crimes. Sampson’s lawyers will ask jurors to consider mitigating factors, such as his remorse and mental illness, and sentence him to life in prison. Sampson admitted murdering Philip A. McCloskey, 69, and Jonathan Rizzo, 19, after commandeering their cars. He is charged separately in New Hampshire with the murder of Robert Whitney, 58.
Experts said that in some cases, it makes sense to skip the guilt phase of the trial. “Where there is overwhelming evidence of guilt, by contesting guilt the defense can lose credibility,” said Kevin McNally, a Kentucky defense lawyer.
Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., said federal murder defendants almost always go to trial unless they’re offered a deal, which Sampson was not.