U.S. v. Sampson, No. CR.01-10384-MLW.

CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtWolf
Citation245 F.Supp.2d 327
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Gary Lee SAMPSON
Decision Date18 February 2003
Docket NumberNo. CR.01-10384-MLW.
245 F.Supp.2d 327
UNITED STATES of America
v.
Gary Lee SAMPSON
No. CR.01-10384-MLW.
United States District Court, D. Massachusetts.
February 18, 2003.

Page 328

John A. Wortmann, Jr., George W. Vien, Emily R. Schulman, Frank M. Gaziano, United States Attorney's Office, John Joseph Moakley Federal, Boston, MA, for U.S. Attorneys.

David A. Ruhnke, Ruhnke & Barrett, Montclair, NJ, Robert L. Sheketoff, Attorney At Law, Boston, MA, for Gary Lee Sampson (1), Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

WOLF, District Judge.


This memorandum is based on the transcript of the decision rendered orally on January 3, 2003, in which the court denied the defendant's Motion to Withdraw Previously-Entered Pleas of Not Guilty and to Plead Guilty to Both Counts of the Indictment. This memorandum adds some citations, some discussion, and deletes the discussion of a potential Ex Post Facto Clause issue that is not now presented.

* * * * * *

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Defendant Gary Sampson was indicted on October 24, 2001. He was charged with two counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2119(3). Section 2119 makes it a crime to take a motor vehicle by force or violence with intent to cause death or serious bodily harm. Section 2119(3) provides that, if death results, the defendant may be sentenced to death himself. The defendant pled not guilty to both charges on November 5, 2001.

On June 5, 2002, the grand jury returned the First Superseding Indictment, which corrected some errors in the original indictment, but did not substantively change the charges against Sampson.

Page 329

Like the original indictment, the First Superseding Indictment alleged each of the elements of the § 2119(3) offense. It did not, however, allege the facts that would have to be proven for the defendant to be eligible for the imposition of the death penalty pursuant to the Federal Death Penalty Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3591 et seq. On June 14, 2002, the defendant pled not guilty to both counts of the First Superseding Indictment.

On June 24, 2002, the Supreme Court decided Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 122 S.Ct. 2428, 153 L.Ed.2d 556 (2002). Addressing an Arizona law and overruling Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 110 S.Ct. 3047, 111 L.Ed.2d 511 (1990), the Court held in Ring that a jury, not a judge, must decide if aggravating factors required to impose the death penalty have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Ring, 122 S.Ct. at 2443.

On August 5, 2002, Sampson filed a motion to withdraw his not guilty pleas, to plead guilty to the First Superseding Indictment, and to be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole (the "Motion"). The Motion was premised on the contention that the First Superseding In the death penalty. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 3591(a)(2), 3592(c), 3593(c)-(e).

On August 8, 2002, the court ordered the defendant to file a memorandum in support of the Motion. On September 13, 2002, the defendant filed that memorandum. The defendant also then agreed to defer arraignment on the Second Superseding Indictment until the Motion was decided.

The defendant filed a supplemental memorandum on September 25, 2002. The government filed its opposition to the Motion on October 4, 2002. On October 16, 2002, the defendant filed a reply.

The court did not act immediately on the Motion because the Department of Justice had not filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, as is required by 18 U.S.C. § 3593(a) to subject a defendant to that sanction. If the Department of Justice decided not to file such a notice, the Motion would have been moot. Sampson could have pled guilty to the First or the Second Superseding Indictments and been sentenced to a maximum of life in prison.

However, the Department of Justice did file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty on November 19, 2002. It reiterates the allegations concerning the defendant's state of mind and, with one exception, the aggravating factors included in the Second Superseding Indictment. It also describes certain non-statutory factors on which the government intends to rely in seeking the death penalty if it obtains a conviction, proves that the defendant acted with one of the required states of mind, and proves that at least one statutory aggravating factor exists. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 3591(a)(2), 3592(c), 3593(c)-(e).

On November 22, 2002, the government filed a supplemental opposition to the Motion. On December 6, 2002, the court held a conference and scheduled oral argument for January 3, 2003.On December 18,

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For the reasons described below, the Motion is being denied.

II. ANALYSIS

Sampson argues primarily that a series of recent Supreme Court decisions, culminating in Ring, render the Federal Death Penalty Act unconstitutional because the statute requires that the Department of Justice rather than a grand jury decide if The Second Superseding Indictment includes a Notice of Special Findings, which alleges the facts concerning the defendant's state of mind and certain statutory aggravating factors which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury for the defendant to be eligible for it is permissible and appropriate to subject a defendant to a prosecution that could result in a death sentence. The court must resolve this issue now. If Sampson's contention is correct, he is entitled to plead guilty to the First Superseding Indictment and all other issues will be moot.

The defendant also initially argued that the Federal Death Penalty Act is unconstitutional because 18 U.S.C. § 3593(c) permits evidence to be admitted in the death penalty phase of the case that would not be admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence and, therefore, violates his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. This argument proved persuasive to the district court in United States v. Fell, 217 F.Supp.2d 469 (D.Vt.2002). However, at the January 3, 2003 hearing, after the court expressed its tentative view that it was premature to address this question in this case, counsel for Sampson withdrew this ground for the Motion without prejudice to raising the issue in the future.

A. Ring Does Not Render The Federal Death Penalty Act Unconstitutional

The defendant has the burden of proving that the Federal Death Penalty Act is unconstitutional. See, e.g., Lujan v. G & G Fire Sprinklers, Inc., 532 U.S. 189, 198, 121 S.Ct. 1446, 149 L.Ed.2d 391 (2001). The Federal Death Penalty Act was enacted in 1994. At that time, Walton v. Arizona, supra, represented the law concerning the procedures required for the constitutionally lawful imposition of the death penalty. Walton was decided by the Supreme Court in 1990. In Walton, the Supreme Court held that "`the Sixth Amendment does not require that the specific findings authorizing the imposition of the sentence of death be made by the jury.'" Id. at 648, 110 S.Ct. 3047 (quoting Hildwin v. Florida, 490 U.S. 638, 640-41, 109 S.Ct. 2055, 104 L.Ed.2d 728 (1989) (per curiam)). This meant that it was constitutionally permissible for a judge, rather than a jury, to make the factual findings necessary to raise the maximum possible sentence from life in prison to death.

The Federal Death Penalty Act, however, provides defendants more procedural protection than Walton required. The Federal Death Penalty Act provides that, in a federal case, the jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with at least one form of statutorily defined intent and that at least one statutory aggravating factor exists before it can decide that the death penalty is justified. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 3591(a)(2), 3592(c), 3593(c)-(e).

However, the Federal Death Penalty Act does not define a role for the grand jury in determining what state of mind or aggravating factors may be considered at trial. Rather, § 3593(a) provides that the Department of Justice may determine whether to seek the death penalty. If the government decides to do so, the statute also requires that the attorney for the government give notice that it will seek the death penalty and set forth the aggravating factors it proposes to prove to obtain the imposition of the ultimate sanction. See 18 U.S.C. § 3593(a). This procedure was constitutional under Walton because the Supreme Court had in effect decided that the facts that raised the

Page 331

maximum sentence from a term of imprisonment to death were sentencing factors rather than elements of the offense, which the Fifth Amendment requires be charged by the grand jury in an indictment. See Walton, 497 U.S. at 647-49, 110 S.Ct. 3047; Jones v. United States, 526 U.S. 227, 251, 119 S.Ct. 1215, 143 L.Ed.2d 311 (1999); Ring, 122 S.Ct. at 2439.

In 1999, however, the Supreme Court decided Jones. In Jones, the Court held that the carjacking statute involved in this case, 18 U.S.C. § 2119, creates three separate offenses. See Jones, 526 U.S. at 251-52, 119 S.Ct. 1215. Section 2119(3) requires causing serious bodily injury or death to raise the maximum possible punishment to death. Therefore, those facts were deemed elements of a greater offense that had to be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt rather than by a judge. Id.

The Supreme Court expressly explained the basis for its decision, stating that: [U]nder the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the notice and jury trial guarantees of the Sixth Amendment, any fact (other than prior conviction) that increases the maximum penalty for a crime must be charged in an indictment, submitted to a jury, and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at 243 n. 6, 119 S.Ct. 1215. The Court also made clear in that footnote that it was not restricting the ability of legislators to define the elements of a criminal offense. Id. Rather, it said that "[t]he constitutional safeguards that figure in our analysis concern not the identity of elements defining criminal liability but only the required procedures for finding facts that determine the maximum possible punishment." Id. (emphasis added).

Nevertheless, in Jones, the...

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24 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Sampson, No. 04-6001.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 7, 2007
    ...325 (D.Mass.2004) (Sampson III); United States v. Sampson, 275 F.Supp.2d 49 (D.Mass.2003) (Sampson II); United States v. Sampson, 245 F.Supp.2d 327 (D.Mass.2003) (Sampson I). We begin this opinion by sketching the background of the case. We then discuss Sampson's arguments about the constit......
  • U.S. v. Le, No. CRIM. 1:03CR48.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • July 27, 2004
    ...by the government on November 14, 2002 satisfies the constitutional requirements of the Indictment Clause."); United States v. Sampson, 245 F.Supp.2d 327, 336 (D.Mass.2003) ("Recognizing a role for the grand jury in deciding whether a defendant shall be subject to the death penalty does not......
  • U.S. v. Rodriguez, Crim.No. C2-04-55.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of North Dakota
    • July 29, 2005
    ...Department of Justice finding is not alone sufficient to subject a defendant to a possible death sentence. United States v. Sampson, 245 F.Supp.2d 327, 333 While it is true, as Defendant argues, when Congress enacted the FDPA, it did not specifically provide that the grand jury would play a......
  • U.S. v. Fell, Docket No. 02-1638.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • March 2, 2004
    ...or whether, instead, the district court properly should have dismissed the claim as premature. See United States v. Sampson, 245 F.Supp.2d 327, 338-39 (D.Mass.2003) (discussing ripeness of constitutional challenge to FDPA Standard when raised before trial); see also Quinones, 313 F.3d at 57......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • U.S. v. Sampson, No. 04-6001.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 7, 2007
    ...325 (D.Mass.2004) (Sampson III); United States v. Sampson, 275 F.Supp.2d 49 (D.Mass.2003) (Sampson II); United States v. Sampson, 245 F.Supp.2d 327 (D.Mass.2003) (Sampson I). We begin this opinion by sketching the background of the case. We then discuss Sampson's arguments about the constit......
  • U.S. v. Le, No. CRIM. 1:03CR48.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • July 27, 2004
    ...by the government on November 14, 2002 satisfies the constitutional requirements of the Indictment Clause."); United States v. Sampson, 245 F.Supp.2d 327, 336 (D.Mass.2003) ("Recognizing a role for the grand jury in deciding whether a defendant shall be subject to the death penalty does not......
  • U.S. v. Rodriguez, Crim.No. C2-04-55.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of North Dakota
    • July 29, 2005
    ...Department of Justice finding is not alone sufficient to subject a defendant to a possible death sentence. United States v. Sampson, 245 F.Supp.2d 327, 333 While it is true, as Defendant argues, when Congress enacted the FDPA, it did not specifically provide that the grand jury would play a......
  • U.S. v. Fell, Docket No. 02-1638.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • March 2, 2004
    ...or whether, instead, the district court properly should have dismissed the claim as premature. See United States v. Sampson, 245 F.Supp.2d 327, 338-39 (D.Mass.2003) (discussing ripeness of constitutional challenge to FDPA Standard when raised before trial); see also Quinones, 313 F.3d at 57......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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