A man on death row for killing two undercover New York City police officers cannot be executed because he meets the legal standard to be considered intellectually disabled, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
In his 76-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis vacated Ronell Wilson's death sentence and imposed a new punishment of life in prison.
"In reaching this decision, the court in no way minimizes or excuses the cruelty and depravity of Wilson's action," Garaufis wrote. "Having presided over this tragic case for more than a decade, the court quite frankly finds it impossible to muster any sense of sympathy for this defendant."
Wilson, 33, was a young gang member on Staten Island in 2003 when he murdered undercover detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews in an illegal gun sting gone awry. The officers were shot point-blank in the backs of their heads.
A jury sentenced Wilson to die by lethal injection, making him the first federal defendant to receive a death sentence in New York City since the 1950s. An appeals court threw out the sentence in 2010 because of an error in jury instructions, but a second jury re-sentenced him to death in 2013. Wilson has been on death row at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, the Associated Press reports.