A former New York City street gang member, after asking for forgiveness, was sentenced to death by lethal injection Tuesday in the execution-style slayings of two police officers in a 2003 gun sting that turned to tragedy.
"I'd like to leave on this note: To error is human, to forgive is divine," Ronell Wilson said in Brooklyn federal court, slightly misstating the aphorism.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis formally imposed the sentence after a jury decided at a retrial that Wilson should receive the death penalty.
The judge called the killing of undercover officers James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews "one of the most grisly and horrific crimes the city has ever seen." Wilson proved he was remorseless by repeatedly acting out behind bars after winning an appeal, he added.
In February, authorities revealed Wilson fathered a child with a jail guard at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. She's since pleaded guilty to an illegal sex act. In his remarks Tuesday, Garaufis called on federal officials to investigate the security breaches.
Wilson, 31, "was permitted to treat the MDC as his own fiefdom," the judge said. A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons declined to comment.
In 2007, another jury sentenced Wilson to death, making him the first federal defendant to receive a death sentence in New York City since the 1950s. But an appeals court threw out the sentence in 2010 because of an error in jury instructions and prosecutors chose to repeat the penalty phase rather than let Wilson serve an automatic life term without parole.
The new jurors, though not deciding Wilson's guilt, once again heard about how the victims were posing as illegal gun buyers. The pair met with Wilson, known then by the nickname "Rated R," for what they thought was a deal to buy a Tec-9 submachine gun. But Wilson decided to rob them instead and ended up shooting them after one pleaded for his life.
Prosecutors cited a scrap of paper Wilson was carrying when he was arrested as proof he was a cold-blooded killer. It had a version of rap lyrics saying that if he was ever crossed, he would put "45 slogs in da back of ya head" and "ain't goin stop to Im dead."
The government also argued that Wilson's conduct behind bars, including his affair with the jail guard and threatening a gay inmate, made him a bad candidate for a life term.
The defense conceded Wilson had committed a horrible crime, but sought to focus jurors on his background as the product of a crack-addicted mother living with a dozen relatives crammed into an apartment at a crime-infested housing project. They said Tuesday that they would appeal the death sentence.