Apr 8, 2016 10:00 AM

Triple murderer might not live to to face execution, lawyers argue

BOSTON — Federal prosecutors seeking a death sentence for a convicted murderer are battling defense attorneys who say Gary Lee Sampson is unlikely to live long enough to be executed.

Sampson was sentenced to death in 2003 for murdering two men who picked him up while he was hitchhiking in Massachusetts. He subsequently killed a third after he fled to New Hampshire. The sentence was overturned in 2011 due to a problem with one of the jurors.

Now prosecutors are asking for a second sentencing trial, but Sampson's lawyers are asking a judge to block the effort.

“He is very far from healthy," the lawyers wrote in their court filing, though no details about his health issues were given. “It is virtually certain that Mr. Sampson will not live long enough to be executed."

Sampson is 56 years old. While a healthy man can be expected to live to age 80, prisoners typically die much younger, the lawyers noted. They project he would not survive a 10- to 20-year appeal process typical in a death penalty case.

While Massachusetts state law does not allow for capital punishment, Sampson was convicted in federal court, where he could face execution.

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