The Associated Press
NEW YORK — At his federal death penalty trial last week, Ronell Wilson said he was "truly sorry" for the execution-style slayings of two detectives during an undercover gun buy.
But jurors weren't swayed, and on Tuesday they made Wilson the first federal defendant sentenced to death in New York City since 1954, when a bank robber was sentenced for killing an FBI agent.
Wilson, 24, was convicted last month of murder, robbery, carjacking and firearms charges.
Prosecutors had said Wilson knew that Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin were undercover New York Police Department detectives when he climbed into the back seat of their unmarked car on the pretense of selling them an illegal gun in 2003. Both officers were shot in the head, Nemorin after he pleaded for his life.
An accomplice testified that he and Wilson were part of a drug gang's plot to rob the detectives, believing they were carrying $1,200 to buy guns.
Defense attorneys argued there was no convincing evidence the men knew their victims were police officers. They said they would appeal.
As the jury foreman announced the death sentence in a packed courtroom, Wilson showed no emotion.
But one person seated with the victims' families could be heard calling Wilson a "dead man." A union official later said the defendant stuck out his tongue in defiance before he was led away; his lawyers said they didn't see it.
"I just want to say thank you to God and thank you to the jurors," Rose Nemorin, the widow of one of the slain officers, said outside court.
There are fewer than 50 inmates nationwide on the federal death row. Three, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, have been put to death since 2001.
Wilson was one of seven people arrested in his case; the other six pleaded guilty to various charges.