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A federal judge has thrown out the death penalty against a man convicted of killing three people in Massachusetts and New Hampshire during a week-long crime spree in 2001.
U.S. Judge Mark Wolf ruled Thursday that Gary Lee Sampson was denied his constitutional right to an impartial jury and that he is "entitled to a new trial to determine whether the death penalty is justified in his case."
Sampson, a drifter who was raised in Abington, pleaded guilty to carjacking two Massachusetts men after each picked him up hitchhiking. He said he forced both men to drive to secluded spots, assured them he only wanted to steal their cars, then stabbed them repeatedly and slit their throats.
He then fled to New Hampshire, broke into a house in Meredith and strangled a third man.
"I feel horrible for the victims' family," said Mike Sullivan, the former U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case. "They've suffered now going back to 2001, so it's been over a decade they've had to continue to live with this horrible, horrific experience."
Scott McCloskey, of Plymouth, is the son of one of Sampson's victims.
"There's no reason for him to get a new trial," McCloskey said. "It's absolutely absurd. To put the families through all this again, for Gary Sampson, you know, a, a serial killer.
"He's the perfect candidate for the death penalty. That's what he got and that's what it should have been left at."
But Wolf says one juror lied during questioning, covering up her reliance on police officers to protect her from domestic violence.
That, the judge says, means a new trial is needed to make sure an impartial panel decides whether Sampson should be put to death.
With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom
This program aired on October 20, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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