Judge Rules Wilson Can't Be Executed Because He Is Intellectually Disabled

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a man on death row for killing two undercover New York Police Department officers can’t be executed because he is intellectually disabled.

In his 76-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis vacated a prior order that sentenced Ronell Wilson, 33, to death and instead sentenced him to life in federal prison without parole.

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Two juries had sentenced Wilson to die, but Garaufis found he can’t be executed because he meets the legal standard to be considered intellectually disabled.

Wilson was charged in the 2003 point-blank shootings of undercover officers James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews in a gun sting gone awry on Staten Island. The officers were shot execution style.

Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, said the detectives’ families have been denied justice.

“The judge’s decision is extremely disappointing and I respectfully disagree,” Palladino said in a statement. “An awful lot of calculated thought went into Wilson’s cold-blooded actions as well as his attempt to avoid capture. That hardly spells out mental incapacitation.”

In 2007, a jury convicted Wilson and sentenced him to die by lethal injection, 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.

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Prosecutors chose to repeat the penalty phase rather than let Wilson serve an automatic life term, and a second jury re-sentenced him to death in 2013. Since then, Wilson has been on death row at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The judge conducted a hearing in 2012 and found that Wilson’s IQ scores seemed to show he had sufficient intellectual functioning. However, the judge did not consider other evidence of deficits in his “adaptive functioning,” or how well he interacts with society or cares for himself.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a judge could not rely solely on a person’s IQ score to determine whether they are intellectually disabled, and an appeals court ruled that Garaufis should to review his finding. In his recent ruling, the judge found Wilson developed intellectual and adaptive deficits before he was 18.


While he was incarcerated in 2012, Wilson impregnated a guard at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Nancy Gonzalez pleaded guilty to engaging in a sexual relationship with an inmate and was sentenced in 2014 to one year and one day in prison.

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