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Defense Calls Last Witness In Sampson Re-Sentencing Trial02:46
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In this 2004 file photo, Gary Lee Sampson, center, is escorted into Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire. (Jim Cole/AP)
In this 2004 file photo, Gary Lee Sampson, center, is escorted into Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire. (Jim Cole/AP)
This article is more than 2 years old.

The defense has called its last witness in the death penalty trial of confessed serial killer Gary Lee Sampson.

In its attempt to save Sampson from a death sentence, the defense called 43 witnesses. Many of them portrayed Sampson as a man suffering from brain damage caused by childhood injuries. The last one portrayed Sampson as a sensitive human being.

"We were two people in a dark place," testified Sari Jacobs, who says she met Sampson at an AA meeting 20 years ago, after he had gotten out of prison and while she was struggling with addiction.

In Sampson's first death penalty trial in 2003, his own mother would not testify on his behalf.

In this second trial -- which was ordered because of juror misconduct in the first one -- Jacobs offered an emotional connection to the often-forbidding defendant.

"He was kind and gentle. He was really good to me," she said. Then invoking the two children she was trying to raise at the time: "He was really good to us."

Declaring that Sampson had been her life raft, helping her to get out of addiction, Jacobs said she had never seen him violent.

But her testimony runs up against that of 65 prosecution witnesses about shocking, violent and cruel deaths Sampson inflicted on three men. The defendant had repeatedly stabbed and slashed a college student and a retiree who had given the hitchhiker a lift. Then he strangled another man in New Hampshire because, he said, he didn't want to get any more blood on his clothes.

While the prosecution took 10 days to present its case, the defense took 20. It presented the theory of brain injury first sustained in Sampson's fall off a bicycle at age 4. Brain damage impaired his ability to control his impulses, experts argued. Other witnesses offered numerous "mitigating factors," such as dyslexia, low self-esteem and sexual abuse by other prisoners that might merit mercy.

The judge told the jurors they can expect to have the case and begin their deliberations on Jan. 4.

This story has been updated with Morning Edition audio atop the post.

This segment aired on December 21, 2016.

Earlier Trial Coverage:

David Boeri Twitter Senior Reporter
Now retired, David Boeri was a senior reporter at WBUR.

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