fotokon/iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — Prior to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence last week, the last person judged worthy of the ultimate punishment in a Boston courthouse has spent more than a decade on death row assaulting prison inmates and staff, writing an autobiography and ordering cappuccino through the prison’s commissary, according to court records and a prison official.
Gary Lee Sampson, who grew up in Massachusetts, was sentenced to death in 2003 on federal carjacking and murder charges stemming from a week-long crime spree that left three people dead. The judgment against him was read in the same Boston courthouse where Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber, heard Friday he would suffer the same fate.
In his original trial, Sampson pleaded guilty and it took jurors 10 hours to sentence him to death. But Sampson is getting a new penalty trial, slated to begin this fall, after it was revealed one of the jurors who sentenced him to die lied on a questionnaire.
Since he’s been behind bars, court records show Sampson has been a violent, unrepentant inmate who has attacked other inmates and prison officials and boasted incessantly about his crimes.
“Do you know what the definition of a serial killer is?” Sampson asked a prison official who runs the death penalty unit, according to a court filing. “Me. I’m a stone-cold killer.”
He also told his brother in a recorded phone call that he was “going to die with a smile on my face so this whole world… they can bury me with my face down and this whole world can kiss my Yankee white ass,” according to court records.
No one has been executed in Massachusetts since 1947 when two men were sent to the electric chair for murder. Sampson is first Massachusetts man sentenced to the death penalty under the federal statute, charged under a 1994 change in law that made fatal carjacking’s a federal crime.
Since 2003, Sampson has been housed on federal death row at FCI-Terre Haute in Indiana and over the years he has become a serial killer celebrity of sorts, whose commissary account is filled with donations from strangers — the type of treatment some marathon bombing victims fear Tsarnaev could receive from his own twisted “fans.”
Previously strangers filled the commissary of Tsarnaev’s federal prison account after he was transported to Fort Devens in Massachusetts to await his trial, federal prison officials confirmed. Many of them were young women who called themselves “Jaharians” — a twist on the phonetic spelling of Dzhokhar — a few of whom were his only supporters in court when he was sentenced to die Friday.
“I don’t understand these girls who cried for him on the stand or the teachers who testified for him with stars in their eyes,” said Liz Norden, whose two sons each lost a leg in the marathon blasts. She supported the death penalty for Tsarnaev and also bemoaned those who would send Tsarnaev money in jail. “I want him to disappear from the earth without being treated like some sort of celebrity.”
Robert Curley, whose 10-year-old son was kidnapped, raped and murdered in a separate case in 1997, said he initially led a charge to bring back the death penalty for state trials in Massachusetts, but later changed his mind.
“Trust me, [as] for my son’s killers, I would murder them myself. But I’m opposed to the death penalty for multiple reasons now,” Curley told ABC News. “One of them is that they become rock stars on death row.”
“That’s the problem with the death penalty,” he added. “They should have put Tsarnaev in a hole and let the world forget about him. Now we will hear about him nonstop.”
During the penalty phase of Tsarnaev’s trial Assistant United States Attorney Steve Mellin referred to inmates like Sampson when he cross-examined a former Terre Haute prison warden who testified for the defense about the harsh conditions there and at USP Florence ADMAX, the country’s highest security prison, where Tsarnaev would have been housed if sentenced to life in prison.
Federal officials have complained about the way Sampson has spent his time on death row in multiple court filings regarding his upcoming trial.
“No lie, the guy is ordering cappuccino’s from the prison commissary,” one federal official who is not authorized to discuss his case publicly told ABC News. A list of commissary items from the death row unit at Terre Haute does list “vanilla cappuccino” as an item available for purchase along with Nike sneakers, candy, cinnamon toast crunch cereal, and racquetballs.
A court filing said that Sampson is “one of the inmates who receives the largest amount of commissary,” on federal death row due to donations.
But that access to high-end items has not squelched Sampson’s penchant for violence, prosecutors say.
In one violence incident cited by prosecutors, Sampson became enraged when “there was not a meat entrée with his meal.” In another he threatened a guard saying “killing someone is not a problem for me.” He also complained in another angry tirade that prison officials were giving him “sub-level treatment because I’m on death row.”
A defense attorney for Sampson did not respond to a request for comment for this report.
Tsarnaev was sentenced to death on six of the counts that carried the death penalty out of 17 contained in his federal conviction.
“The jury has spoken. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will pay with his life for his crimes,” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said Friday.
Tsarnaev’s father, Anzor, told ABC News from Dagestan after the verdict, “We will fight. We will fight. We will fight until the end.”
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