BOSTON — A federal judge on Wednesday ordered an evaluation to determine whether a man sentenced to death for carjacking and killing two Massachusetts men is mentally competent for a second sentencing trial.
Gary Lee Sampson pleaded guilty to the 2001 slayings of Jonathan Rizzo, 19, of Kingston, and Philip McCloskey, 69, of Taunton, during a multi-day crime spree in which he also acknowledged killing Robert Whitney in Meredith, New Hampshire.
A jury recommended the death penalty in the carjacking cases, but Judge Mark Wolf overturned the sentence in 2011 after finding that one of the jurors had repeatedly lied about her background.
Sampson’s lawyers said in court Wednesday they believe he is competent to assist them during a new sentencing trial, scheduled for next year. Prosecutors also said they believe Sampson is competent, but deferred to Wolf.
Wolf noted that one of Sampson’s claims in his motion to set aside his sentence was that his former lawyer was ineffective because he did not raise the competency issue during his first trial.
Sampson was sentenced to life in prison in a separate state trial in New Hampshire for Whitney’s killing.
He has been held at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, since 2004.