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Court upholds conviction in Samples robbery case

The former Hager City man convicted of robbing the Red Wing Credit Union in 2001 in Red Wing, Minn., received a fair trial, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Mark Samples, 42, argued he deserved a new trial because the prosecutor used improper methods to establish his sanity during the heist.

The divided three-judge panel ruled against Samples. The court questioned the prosecution's actions but insisted Samples's trial was a fair one.

Judge Myron Bright dissented.

"...Samples served his government well as a member of the armed forces," Bright wrote. "But the same cannot be said of the government's service to Samples as a defendant in this trial."

A decorated military veteran, Samples walked into the credit union on North Service Drive on May 3, 2001, and demanded money at gunpoint.

Samples fled the scene on a bicycle with $70,000. He hid from authorities for nearly eight hours in the Mississippi River - using diving gear he placed nearby - before returning home.

Samples said he had suicidal tendencies and checked himself into a veterans' hospital on May 8. He confessed to the crime from the psychiatric ward at the hospital.

While free on bond in 2002, Samples disappeared for 15 months with his 3-year-old son from Pepin.

At trial, Samples argued that he was not guilty by reason of insanity.

Witnesses for the prosecution told the jury Samples was diagnosed before the robbery with depressive disorder and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.

Samples's unstable mental condition was traced to a missile attack he survived in 1987 while serving in the Navy. He received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal of Heroism for his actions that day.

Relying on testimony from two government experts, prosecutors argued that Samples was sane during the heist as exhibited by his level of planning and flight with his son after the crime.

Samples took issue with the prosecution's use of the government psychiatrists' testimony. Samples also claimed it was unfair to assume he was sane because he took off with his son.

Samples' motion for a new trial was denied. His appeal was submitted last year.

Convicted by a federal court in 2004 for robbery and fleeing, Samples is serving his 11-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wis., 60 miles north of Madison.