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Fate of NYPD cop killer in jury's hands

Ronell Wilson is escorted out of the 120th

Ronell Wilson is escorted out of the 120th precinct in Staten Island by police officers. (March 13, 2003) Credit: Mayita Mendez

For the second time in convicted NYPD cop killer Ronell Wilson's life, a Brooklyn federal jury will decide if he lives or dies.

The panel of seven men and five women begins deliberations this morning over whether Wilson, 31, should spend the rest of his life in prison or be executed for the 2003 murders of NYPD undercover officers James Nemorin of Baldwin Harbor and Rodney Andrews of Middle Village.

Wilson was sentenced to death in 2006 for the murder of the officers during an undercover gun buy on Staten Island. An appeals court later overturned the death penalty because of an improper summation in the penalty phase of the prosecutors' case.

Because Wilson's guilt has already been established, the current trial only involves the issue of the appropriate penalty.

In her closing statement Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Celia Cohen said Wilson has shown no remorse since the murders, which she called cold blooded, and would not be rehabilitated by a life term in prison.

"He has shown through his action that he has no humanity," Cohen told the jury, reminding them that Wilson shot Andrews first in the back of the head and then executed Nemorin as the undercover officer sat in a car, begging for his life.

Wilson's life in prison since the shooting has been a display of manipulative behavior, Cohen said. As evidence, Cohen underscored to the jury that Wilson had sex with a prison guard. The guard later gave birth to Wilson's son, a fact never divulged to the jurors in the murder case.

By killing both officers, Wilson condemned their children to having only the ability to clasp their tombstones on Father's Day, Cohen said.

"A sentence of death is just demanded in this case, it's the just and right punishment," she said.

Wilson's defense attorney, David Stern, told the jury the government had shown no evidence that Wilson knew his victims were cops as Cohen argued in her closing statement.

He also denied that rap lyrics Wilson wrote that referenced shooting people in the head and blood on the street, were a bragging statement by the defendant that he killed the officers as prosecutors contended.

Stern also implored the jury to consider that Wilson, whom he called a "limited" and "impulsive" person, wasn't the brains behind a gang operation of which he was involved. Stern also noted that a number of Wilson's gang friends, who pleaded guilty to state charges, stood the chance of someday getting out of prison, something Wilson wouldn't have if he were given a life sentence in a federal institution.

In rebuttal, Assistant U.S. attorney James McGovern insisted Wilson knew the undercover officers were law enforcement.

"He made the determination they were police officers and he made the decision to take them out," McGovern said. "We gave you overwhelming proof that the death penalty is appropriate in this case."

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