Cop killer Ronell Wilson was given the federal death penalty for the second time Wednesday for the 2003 murders of undercover NYPD detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews.
After deliberating about five hours, a Brooklyn federal jury of seven men and five women decided that Wilson must die for shooting both men -- one from Baldwin Harbor -- during an undercover gun buy on Staten Island.
Since Wilson's conviction in 2006 by a different jury led to a death penalty verdict in 2007 -- later overturned on appeal -- he now appears to have the dubious distinction of being the only defendant in the federal system to have received the death penalty twice. Because guilt had been established in the first trial, the latest jury only had to decide the appropriate penalty.
No sentencing date has been set and Judge Nicholas Garaufis told prosecutors and defense attorneys to start preparing presentencing motions.
As the jury announced the death verdicts, two of Wilson's sisters sobbed loudly in court. His mother, Cheryl Wilson Hadden, looked stone-faced and straight ahead, showing no emotion. After hearing his fate, Wilson, 31, appeared to slump down in his seat and then began nervously stroking his chin and gave his family concerned looks.
Nemorin's family, who had lived in Baldwin Harbor and now lives in Bellmore, wasn't in court when the verdict was announced. But Andrews' father, Rodney Sr., and the detective's widow, Maryann, watched tearfully, surrounded by members of the detectives union, as the verdict was rendered.
In a statement, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly applauded the verdict. "When two New York City police officers were killed in cold blood, it was more than a calculated attack on two outstanding human beings. It was an assault on the society that those officers represented, and for that reason their murders had to be answered with the full force of punishment at society's disposal," Kelly said.
Rose Nemorin, 41, of Bellmore, widow of James Nemorin, said she's glad to finally have closure. Speaking in her driveway Wednesday, she was composed and matter-of-fact.
"I'm very happy," she said.
She wasn't in court Wednesday because she hadn't expected the verdict to come so soon, she said.
Going through the penalty trial again was like opening a wound. But James Nemorin "was a great husband, a great father to my kids. It's what I had to do."
While the 12 jurors accepted the fact that Wilson had problems growing up in poverty and surrounded by drug and alcohol abuse, only two of them stated on the verdict form that Wilson's life had any value.
Reacting to the verdict, Patrick J. Lynch, president of the city's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association association said: "Some evil must be wiped from the face of the earth and Ronell Wilson is the personification of that evil ... This is a just decision."
"Ronell Wilson is not going to change," Detective Endowment Association president Michael Palladino said outside the courtroom about Wilson's dangerousness. "He is a thug and the jury saw that."
Maryann Andrews, her faced streaked by tears, didn't want to comment to reporters. But her father-in-law, Rodney Andrews Sr., said he was pleased with the outcome and also thought Wilson was a hardened criminal. Andrews said he would like to witness Wilson's execution.
Defense attorney David Stern declined to comment, as did members of Wilson's family.
Wilson is the first defendant in the federal court in Brooklyn to receive the death penalty under the current law that took effect 1988.(The last New York State execution was in 1963.) Since 1988, there have only been 15 federal death penalty sentences nationally through April of this year, with three executions having occurred, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Wilson's case, which one legal source said will probably cost the federal court system $5 million to $10 million, is expected to generate years of appeals.
With Colleen Jaskot