After months of legal wrangling, federal prosecutors said Tuesday that they will not ask an Appeals Court to remove the judge overseeing the death penalty trial of admitted serial killer Gary Lee Sampson.
US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf had given the prosecutors a deadline of noon Tuesday to report whether they planned to petition the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston to intervene and force his removal from the case. Prosecutors have questioned whether the judge might have a conflict of interest based on his past associations with a potential witness in the case.
But, in a document filed shortly before noon, prosecutors said, “The government hereby states that it will not petition the First Circuit.” The prosecutors instead asked for Sampson’s new sentencing trial to be held soon.
In mid-November, Wolf rejected a second request by prosecutors that he recuse himself from the case, saying he had already thoroughly considered their request and that prosecutors had not raised any new arguments in asking him to step down.
Prosecutors had alleged that Wolf’s participation on a panel with an expert witness who now may be called in Sampson’s defense created an appearance of a conflict of interest, but the judge disagreed. In Tuesday’s filing, prosecutors asked that a status conference be scheduled for Dec. 14, saying that “the government anticipates requesting that a trial be scheduled as soon as practicable.”
Sampson pleaded guilty in federal court in 2003 to murdering 69-year-old Philip McCloskey in Marshfield on July 24, 2001, and murdering 19-year-old Jonathan Rizzo in Abington on July 27, 2001. He also later admitted in New Hampshire state court to murdering Robert “Eli” Whitney in that state on July 30, 2001.
US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office is again seeking the death penalty.