Ronell Wilson won't express sorrow for cop killings, lawyers say
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Convicted double cop-killer Ronell Wilson has decided to not tell the jury he's sorry this time around.
In a dramatic reversal from his unsworn declaration at his first death-penalty trial in 2007 that he felt "deep sorrow" for the families of the officers he murdered, Wilson's lawyers said in a letter disclosed Thursday that he won't offer a repeat of the statement for the Brooklyn federal jury retrying the case.
Wilson's lawyers declined to comment on the strategy behind the unexpected decision to stay silent. They revealed it on June 21 to Brooklyn U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who kept it secret until Thursday.
Wilson, 31, was sentenced to death in 2007 following his conviction for executing NYPD detectives James Nemorin of Baldwin Harbor and Rodney Andrews of Middle Village, Queens, during an undercover gun buy in 2003. But an appeals court ordered a retrial on the penalty.
During the penalty phase of the original trial, Garaufis permitted Wilson to make an unsworn statement to the jury without being cross-examined. He said he had "seen the pain" he caused and "cannot be remorseless and show no sympathy," adding that he was "so, so sorry."
The statement proved unpersuasive. Newsday reported that Wilson spoke in a halting voice as he read from a piece of paper, never looking up at the jury or relatives of the cops, and a few days later the jurors agreed unanimously that Wilson had not accepted responsibility or shown remorse.
The statement was central to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to reverse Wilson's death sentence. The appeals court ruled that prosecutors improperly criticized Wilson for failing to testify under oath, and Garaufis gave inadequate instructions to the jury on that argument.
In the retrial, now in its third week, Wilson's team has relied largely on arguments that his upbringing in a poor, drug-ridden household on Staten Island was responsible for his crime.
Thursday Robert Macy, a Boston-based psychologist identified as a child trauma expert, testified that exposure to violence and neglect can cripple kids' behavior for life. "Violence affects the brain as much as it affects the body and spirit," he testified.
Macy, a former theater major, homebuilder and dance therapy instructor, read the jury extended remarks by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the link between childhood trauma and violence. But he said didn't know what Holder -- who authorized prosecutors to seek the death penalty -- thought about Wilson.
Macy said he was paid $5,000 for 10 hours of work by Wilson's taxpayer-funded defense, but never interviewed Wilson or reviewed any records relating to his childhood or the case.
He wasn't sure he had ever been on Staten Island until he remembered some trauma work he did last year. "Was there a flood?" he asked the prosecutor questioning him.