NEW YORK (Reuters) - A jury in New York on Wednesday sentenced Ronell Wilson to death for killing two undercover police officers in 2003, setting up what would be the first federal execution of a New York defendant in six decades.
The jury’s verdict in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn is the second capital sentence for Wilson, 31, who originally was sentenced to death in 2007 for murdering two officers posing as gun buyers during an attempted sting operation in Staten Island.
That sentence was thrown out by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2010 due to prosecutorial errors, although Wilson’s conviction was upheld.
On Wednesday, jurors deliberated for only a few hours following a month-long trial focused on whether to impose the death penalty. If the jury had decided not to sentence Wilson to death, he would have automatically received a life sentence in prison without parole.
The case has seen a number of dramatic twists since Wilson was granted a new sentencing proceeding. Last year, after a hearing that lasted several weeks, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that Wilson was not mentally retarded and was therefore eligible for the death penalty.
In February, federal authorities arrested a female corrections officer from the Brooklyn detention center where Wilson was being held and charged her with having sex with him. She gave birth to their son in March and pleaded guilty earlier this month.
Wilson’s attorney did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
New York’s highest state court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 2004. Despite the state ban on capital punishment, federal prosecutors are still permitted to seek executions for federal cases.
The last time a federal defendant was executed in New York state was in 1954.
The United States has executed three federal prisoners since the death penalty was reinstated in 1988, including Timothy McVeigh, the man responsible for the 1995 bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building that killed 168 people.
Wilson will be the 60th inmate on federal death row, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center.
Reporting by Joseph Ax and Jessica Dye. Editing by Andre Grenon