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Death penalty opponent banned from Ronell Wilson retrial

The Brooklyn federal judge overseeing the death penalty retrial of double cop-killer Ronell Wilson has banned a longtime death penalty opponent from his courtroom, but declined to give reasons for the unusual step Tuesday.

Clare Hogenauer, 67, has been a fixture at other death penalty cases in the New York area for years, said she was informed of the ban by U.S. marshals when she sat down in a park across from the Brooklyn courthouse on Monday with a sign reading, "Execute Justice Not People."

She said she thought the sign probably triggered the ban, but it was a surprise because she attended Wilson's first trial, overseen by Garaufis, in 2006 without incident.

"It's absurd," said Hogenauer. "I've never done anything in a courtroom to justify this."

Charles Dunne, the chief U.S. marshal overseeing the Brooklyn courthouse, confirmed the ban, but declined to explain it.

"She was banned from the courtroom by Judge Garaufis," Dunne said. "Both the defense and the government were informed as to the reason. Neither the judge nor I will say anything further."

A call to Garaufis' chambers was not returned. Wilson, 31, was convicted in 2006 of murdering NYPD detectives James Nemorin of Baldwin Harbor and Rodney Andrews of Middle Village during an undercover gun buy on Staten Island in 2003.

He was sentenced to death, but an appeals court ordered a retrial on the penalty issue because prosecutors commented on their closing argument on Wilson's decision to go trial and failure to testify, and because Garaufis erred by not giving proper instructions to the jury.

Prosecutors completed their case last week, and Wilson's lawyers Tuesday continued to present testimony about his difficult upbringing in a public-housing project on Staten Island, which they say mitigates his responsibility for the murders.

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