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June 30, 2010

Split Second Circuit panel reverses death sentence for NYC double cop killer

As detailed in this New York Times report, which is headlined "Death Sentence Is Voided for Killer of 2 N.Y.P.D. Officers," the Second Circuit today has reversed a high-profile federal death sentence. Here are the basics:

A panel of federal judges has overturned the death sentence given to a Staten Island man convicted of killing two undercover New York City police detectives in 2003. In January 2007, when a federal jury sentenced the man, Ronell Wilson, to die by lethal injection for killing the detectives, the verdict was praised by prosecutors and the president of the Detectives Endowment Association.

Relatives of the two detectives — each shot in the back of the head in a car on a dead-end street on Staten Island in 2003 after posing as gun buyers — called out “God bless” after the jury foreman ordered sentences of death on five counts, the first successful federal capital punishment prosecution in New York State in more than 50 years.

But, a little more than three years later, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned the death sentences on Wednesday. The judges ruled that federal prosecutors violated Mr. Wilson’s constitutional rights.

Here is a key section from the start of the majority opinion in US v. Wilson, No. 07-1320 (2d Cir. June 30, 2010) (available here):

[W]e vacate the death sentences, and remand, because two arguments made to the jury by the prosecution — both bearing on the critical issues of remorse, acceptance of responsibility, and future dangerousnessimpaired Wilson’s constitutional rights.  The government argued: [i] that Wilson put the government to its proof of guilt rather than plead guilty; and [ii] that Wilson’s allocution of remorse should be discredited because he failed to testify notwithstanding the fact that “[t]he path for that witness stand has never been blocked for Mr. Wilson.”  As to the first argument, although a guilty plea may properly be considered to support a sentence mitigation for acceptance of responsibility, the Sixth Amendment is violated when failure to plead guilty is treated as an aggravating circumstance.  As to the second, it is a fair argument for the prosecution to say that an allocution of remorse is unsworn and uncrossed, but the Fifth Amendment is violated when the defendant is denied a charge that limits the Fifth Amendment waiver to that which is said in the allocution and the jury is invited to consider more generally that the defendant declined to testify.  These constitutional violations were not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Judge Livingston dissents from this portion of the panel's ruling, say this at the end of her opinion:

I conclude that if there was Fifth Amendment error here — and I find it doubtful — such error had no impact on the jury that sentenced Wilson.  With regard to the Sixth Amendment, there is simply no error to review. Having reached these conclusions, I believe the death sentences should be affirmed.

As the dissent highlights, these constitutional issues are not clear cut, which makes en banc review by the Second Circuit and/or a cert grants by the Supreme Court quite likely.  In other words, this legal battles over the defendant's death sentence have likely only just begun.

June 30, 2010 at 02:27 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Is the defendant falsely convicted because he is innocent? If the answer is, he killed the two police, then this decision is not for the service of justice but to generate lawyer income. It is a type of theft. Because it is a type of stealing, any crime committed by the appellant should be considered a felony crime by the judges, felony battery, felony rape of another inmate, felony murder of another person. The judges are 100% responsible for these femony crimes, since his recidivism in prison has the foreseeability of planetary orbits. Does the sun rise in the East? It is with that certainty, he will be hurting others. When he does that, arrest the judges, try the judges, execute the judges. They would be accomplices to felony murder.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 30, 2010 2:36:21 PM

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Posted by: moncler Boutique | Sep 17, 2010 11:01:20 PM

I think it is gread. That is the main motivating factor in what all people do. Criminals just are willing to go farther to get their money than the rest.

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Posted by: p90x workoweut | Sep 18, 2010 3:23:36 AM

It is no use doing what you like; you have got to like what you do.

Posted by: pandora charms | Nov 12, 2010 3:24:02 AM

As to the next, it is a pale quarrel for the tribunal to speak that an allocation of regret is unworn and uncrossed.

Posted by: Psychology Dissertation | Oct 15, 2012 2:52:55 AM

I believe the death sentences should be affirmed, I learn a mount of knowledge increase my power.

Posted by: online masters dissertation services | Oct 15, 2012 3:00:48 AM

As to the next, it is a pale quarrel for the tribunal to speak that an allocation of regret is unworn and uncrossed.

Posted by: psychology dissertation ideas | Oct 15, 2012 3:00:59 AM

this is very sad news,and i am looking for the best

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