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September 11, 2013

Will second federal death sentence stick for cop killer Ronell Wilson?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this latest news about a high-profile (and already long-running) federal capital case. The New York Times headline for this story is "For the Second Time, a Killer of Two Detectives Is Sentenced to Death," and here are the details:

They sat in silent expectation on Tuesday afternoon, scores of people on the long wooden benches in the largest and most hallowed space in the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, all to witness the rare spectacle of a man, Ronell Wilson, being sentenced to death.

There were the police officers who had known the two undercover detectives killed by Mr. Wilson on Staten Island in 2003; members of Mr. Wilson’s family and the family of one of his victims; prosecutors and observers....

The judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, turned to the prosecutors and then Mr. Wilson’s defense team. They declined to speak. And then he turned to Mr. Wilson, who stood and faced those relatives of the victims who were present.

“As I said in my previous allocution, how deeply sorry I am for the pain that I caused upon you and your family,” he said haltingly, referring to statements he made at his first sentencing.  “I remain with the same feeling as before. I would like to end on this note: error is human but to forgive is divine.”

He used the rest of his time to criticize his lawyers, who were sitting on either side of him.  He has 14 days to file a notice of an appeal.

At the trial in July, jurors learned how Mr. Wilson, 31, killed the detectives, James V. Nemorin and Rodney J. Andrews, shooting each in the back of the head during a botched gun sting operation. Prosecutors presented evidence that Mr. Wilson, whose previous death sentence, in 2007, was struck down, seemed to escape punishment during his time in jail, where he intimidated weaker inmates and sneaked into private rooms to have sex with a correction officer, with whom he fathered a child.

The jury sent him back to death row. H e is the only person in New York to be sentenced to the federal death penalty in more than 50 years.  On Tuesday, Judge Garaufis read from a lengthy statement before formally issuing the sentence.  He pointed to the “viciousness with which Mr. Wilson murdered Detectives Nemorin and Andrews and Mr. Wilson’s recent behavior in prison.”  He said Mr. Wilson showed a “continuing lack of remorse and disregard for authority.”...

Outside court, a lawyer for Mr. Wilson, David Stern, approached several news cameras. “This demonstrates how little we’ve evolved since biblical times,” Mr. Stern said of the sentence. “This is a really sad day for me because of my failure.”

Sounds to me like one (of surely many) arguments that will be pursued in future appeals will be the claim that Wilson's lawyers were constitutionally ineffective.  I doubt such claims will prevail, but I also doubt such claims will be conclusively rejected for a decade or longer.  Federal capital justice may be sure in this case, but it certainly is not swift.

September 11, 2013 at 09:36 AM | Permalink

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Comments

So much for the idea that all that monotonous, boring time behind bars is really a tougher punishment than the death penalty.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 11, 2013 9:46:08 AM

The appellate judges perpetuating this raid on the tax coffers should be arrested, given an hour's fair trial, and executed as internal traitors. There is no question as to their guilt and damage to the nation. And indoctrination by a criminal cult enterprise is not a recognized defense to the charge of treason. Seriously, only mass executions will deter these out of control rent seeking lawyers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 11, 2013 10:40:00 AM

"how deeply sorry I am for the pain that I caused upon you and your family,”
“ I would like to end on this note: error is human but to forgive is divine.”
He used the rest of his time to criticize his lawyers, who were sitting on either side of him.
---
His words speak volumes... as do his actions, all tending to support the need for his
execution, rather than
incarceration.

o Mr. Wilson, 31, was convicted of killing the detectives, James V. Nemorin and Rodney J. Andrews,
shooting each in the back of the head..
o Andrews was shot first, and then Nemorin as he begged for his life.
o After shooting both detectives, Wilson rifled their pockets looking for cash then
dumped their bodies in a Staten Island street.

o [T]he jury found prosecutors had proved the defendant remained a serious threat to the safety of others,
even in prison.
o ..during his time in jail, where he intimidated weaker inmates and sneaked into private rooms to have sex
with a correction officer, with whom he fathered a child.

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 11, 2013 11:06:47 AM

"He is the only person in New York to be sentenced to the federal death penalty in more than 50 years"

Only a few people were sentenced under state laws when that was available. Many more were involved in various heinous crimes. One person who was involved in a cruel murder/robbery could not be sentenced to die given the policy of the time. The two elderly brothers of the victim split on what they thought was appropriate.

His time in prison was special -- most people in his situation does not get guards pregnant. It is outrageous he was given the chance to do that as compared to the others in prison for life etc. who do not have the ability. The number of chances he had to have sex underlines it was not some one time thing, but an extended problem that would be outrageous even if he was in jail for a twenty years sentence.

As to life imprisonment not being worse, that isn't the opinion of some people who want to end appeals or who have committed suicide in prison. The "sure" nature of "justice" in this case, especially if he will be executed about twenty or so years after the crimes, is also subject to disagreement. To the degree his time in prison was not as tough as those who do not have the ability to have sex with guards repeatedly, yes, that shouldn't be allowed.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 11, 2013 11:42:08 AM

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