Updated Apr 18, 2016

Appeal Ruling That Detectives’ Killer Can’t Be Executed


Federal prosecutors have appealed a Judge’s decision that Ronell Wilson, killer of two undercover Detectives, is not eligible for the death penalty because, under a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision, he is intellectually disabled.

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District filed the paperwork March 22.

Reversed Himself

U.S. District Judge Nich­olas Garaufis had sentenced Mr. Wilson to death twice before ruling March 15 that the recent Supreme Court decision made execution impossible.

Before handing down the most-recent death penalty ruling, Judge Garaufis held a hearing in 2012 to determine wheth­er Mr. Wilson was mentally retarded. The Judge concluded that his IQ scores showed he was not retarded and that he could therefore be sentenced to death.

But in the 2014 case, Hall v. Florida, the Supreme Court ruled that IQ scores by themselves were not definitive gauges of mental capacity. Under the ruling, if a defendant’s IQ falls between 70 and 75 (the mean score is 100), judges must take into account other evidence of intellectual problems, including inability to learn basic skills and adapt to changing circumstances.

An appeals court directed Judge Garaufis to consider this, and he agreed that Mr. Wilson had developed severe intellectual deficits before the age of 18.

Murdered Them in Car

Mr. Wilson was convicted in 2007 of shooting Dets. Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin in the back of the head in 2003 as they sat in his car, posing as arms traffickers who wanted to buy a TEC-9 submachine gun.

Mr. Wilson was first sentenced to death in 2007, but an appeals court invalidated the sentence while leaving the conviction to stand. Judge Garaufis held a second penalty hearing with a new jury, which resulted in the second death sentence.