The authorities zeroed in on John Wayne Gacy in December 1978 after teenager Robert Piest suddenly went missing. As the police kept following him to gather any potential evidence, John contacted Sam Amirante, an attorney who was about to start his private practice. Netflix’s ‘Conversations With a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes’ chronicles John’s crimes and how Sam came to defend the “Killer Clown” in court as his attorney. So, if you’re wondering what Sam has been doing since then, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Sam Amirante?
Sam had graduated from Loyola University School of Law in Illinois in 1974. While he aimed to work for the State Prosecutor’s office, he couldn’t get a job there. Hence, Sam worked in the Public Defender’s office for a few years before setting up his private practice. In December 1978, he received a phone call from someone who would go on to become his first client and lead the young lawyer to defend him in one of the most high-profile cases of the century.
It was John Wayne Gacy, asking if Sam could do him a favor; he wanted to know why the police were following him. At the time, Sam knew John as an acquaintance; he was part of the local democratic politics. The authorities had been looking into John after 15-year-old Rob disappeared from work in December 1978. They placed round-the-clock surveillance on John, who claimed to have nothing to do with Rob vanishing. He stated that the police following him everywhere affected his business, and he wanted them to stop.
Just days later, on December 20, 1979, an inebriated John walked into Sam’s office and spoke for hours in what turned out to be a horrifying confession. John went into great detail about killing more than 30 young men, including Rob. But later on, he claimed not to remember the killings, adding an alter ego may have committed them. In February 1980, Sam and Robert Motta were John’s defense attorneys and argued that John was not guilty by reason of insanity.
However, the jury convicted John of 33 murders and sentenced him to die. Despite the loss, Sam and Robert won many an accolade for their legal defense. Sam’s passion for the American justice system ultimately came through, with him defending John despite his heinous crimes. However, Sam did believe that his client was manipulative. In the end, John was executed in May 1994. Sam felt that there could have been more to learn from John regarding his personality type. If he were alive, Sam believed those studies could have helped in preventing other such crimes.
Where is Sam Amirante Now?
In 1988, Sam was appointed as a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. He presided over many trials during his tenure as a judge that lasted more than a decade. A former Marine, Sam has since returned to being a lawyer and runs his own private practice in Des Plaines, Illinois. Apart from that, he was responsible for writing a law that eventually became a bill in Illinois called ISEARCH: Illinois State Enforcement Agency to Recover Children.
In an interview, Sam said that he regretted not spending time with his then-wife and two sons while he worked on John’s case. He has since remarried and has a young daughter now. While Sam continues to defend people in court, he also spends time with his family. The lawyer now lives in Chicago, Illinois. Many years after the case ended, Sam published a book titled ‘John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster,’ which chronicles his experiences with the case.
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