A 12-person federal jury handed down the death penalty to Ronell Wilson on Wednesday in connection with the murder of two undercover police officers in 2003.
A federal jury originally sentenced Wilson to death in 2007, but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in 2010, saying a sentence of life in prison was sufficient. The original sentence was overturned after the defense argued their client’s right against self-incrimination was violated during trial. During the trial, the state prosecutor told jurors that if Mr. Wilson had felt any remorse for his actions, he would have taken the stand.
Although the new sentence meant Wilson would spend the rest of his life behind bars, federal prosecutors still felt that the sentence was too light. They brought new evidence against Wilson, including video evidence of his non-compliance in prison. The jury also heard evidence that he had engaged in sexual relations with a female prison guard, who gave birth to Wilson’s son in March. After only five hours of deliberation, the jury decided to reinstate the death penalty.
Just over 10 years ago in March 2003, Wilson was part of an illegal weapons sale that went south. According to the case, undercover detectives Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin arranged a sting operation to purchase an illegal handgun from Wilson.
Prosecutors argued that Wilson never intended to sell the gun to the officers. Instead, Wilson used the gun to shoot both detectives in the back of the head after they paid him money for the weapon. Arguing that the murders were committed for financial gain, and that Wilson possessed future danger, prosecutors succeeded in getting the original death penalty sentence in 2007, New York’s first death sentence since 1953.
Now that Wilson is back on death row, Rodney Andrews Sr., father of Det. Andrews, said the punishment once again fits the crime.
“He’s done too many things,” said Mr. Andrews. “He’s proven that he’s not going to change.”
Mr. Andrews added that he planned to watch Wilson’s execution “for satisfaction.”
Attorney Brett Appelman comments
Many people do not realize that there are federal death penalty cases, even if it is contrary to state law. In this case, the defendant committed two murders, which under state law in New York could not possibly get him the death penalty. New York, like many other states, has outlawed the death penalty for state level crimes.
When the defendant murdered two on-duty law enforcement officers, he committed a crime that can be charged as a state crime or a federal crime. The federal prosecutor wanted the death penalty for this defendant, so she took the case away from the state prosecutors. The federal government supersedes the state government and can take cases to federal court if it wishes to do so.
Related source: New York Times