Double cop-killer Ronell Wilson escaped a jury verdict of death for the second time on Monday when Brooklyn federal prosecutors announced they would not pursue their appeal of a ruling that he can’t be executed because of mental deficiencies.
Wilson, 35, was convicted in 2006 of executing NYPD detectives James Nemorin of Baldwin Harbor and Rodney Andrews of Middle Village by shooting them in their heads and dumping them on the street during a 2003 undercover gun buy on Staten Island.
His first death sentence was overturned by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because of an improper prosecution argument. He was again sentenced to death by a jury in 2013, but that was overturned based on a new legal standard for retardation.
Prosecutors dropped their appeal of that ruling Monday, one day before their brief was due, with a brief announcement from acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde, who offered no explanation but said Wilson would serve life with no chance of parole.
“Our decision now does not change our view that it was proper to seek the death penalty against Wilson, a sentence that was deemed to be just by two different juries,” she said. “Nor does it lessen the culpability of Wilson . . . for his coldblooded execution of Detectives Nemorin and Andrews.”
The widows of Andrews and Nemorin — who said Wilson had “won” when his second death sentence was overturned last year — could not be reached for comment. Michael Palladino, head of the Detectives Endowment Association, said he was “disappointed.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s office did a magnificent job proving that Wilson deserved the death penalty in two separate trials, but convincing the court that he has any intellect seems an insurmountable task,” Palladino said.
Wilson, currently imprisoned in a Beaumont, Texas, federal penitentiary, had been the first person to get the federal death penalty in New York in 50 years. While locked up in Brooklyn for his second trial, he impregnated and had a child by a guard.
At his second trial, testimony indicated he had been the leader of a violent Staten Island gang when he murdered the two detectives, and he later became a kingpin on his prison block. But some IQ tests hovered around 70, the benchmark for intellectual disability.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who had previously found Wilson mentally able enough to face capital punishment, ruled last year that new Supreme Court standards were “more protective” and overturned the death sentence while saying it was “impossible to muster any sense of sympathy for this defendant.”
The government’s decision Monday to drop its appeal makes that ruling the final word on the case.