A federal judge in Boston has ordered lawyers for serial killer Gary Lee Sampson to file a budget proposal to prepare for his sentencing retrial, where he may again face a death penalty.
"The budget should include 'the best preliminary estimate that can be made of the cost of all services [counsel, expert, investigative, and other]' to prepare this case for retrial concerning sentencing, and may include particular amounts for discrete phases of preparation," US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf wrote in an order issued on Friday.
Wolf gave Sampson's attorneys until noon on Jan. 9 to file a budget request for their work, which will be publicly funded. A lawyer for Sampson could not be reached for comment on the order, and defense attorneys had not filed a response as of Sunday evening.
The average cost of defending a federal capital trial is $620,932, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a research organization based in Washington, D.C.
Richard Dieter, the center's executive director, said legal work during the penalty phase may account for roughly half that amount.
"Whatever the defense spends, the prosecution is probably spending equally as much or maybe more, because they have more of the burden," Dieter said.
The last execution at the federal level occurred in March 2003 in Indiana, according to the information center. Massachusetts abolished its death penalty in 1984, and no one has been executed in the state since 1947.
Sampson, now 54, pleaded guilty to the 2001 carjackings and killings of Jonathan Rizzo, 19, of Kingston and Phillip McCloskey, 69, of Taunton in what prosecutors called among the most horrendous crimes of the time. The same week, he also killed Robert "Eli" Whitney, 59, of New Hampshire in that state.
A jury in 2003 agreed to hand out the death sentence for Sampson. But after years of hearings Wolf vacated the decision in 2011 after finding that one of the jurors in the death sentence trial failed to disclose that she had past encounters with law enforcement.
Prosecutors said in court papers filed on Dec. 20 that they will again seek the death penalty for Sampson.
Defense lawyers said in a filing three days later that Sampson is in poor health, and there is significant evidence that he "will likely die a natural death in prison regardless of whether his sentence is one of life or death."
They said the retrial team, once funded, will have to review a trove of documents including the roughly 6,500-page transcript of the original trial, more than 12,000 pages of evidence provided in that proceeding, as well as evidence regarding newly raised issues.
A date for the sentencing retrial has not been set.
Sampson is incarcerated in Terre Haute, Ind.