Three years ago, Ronnell Wilson was sentenced to death for the 2003 murders of undercover police officers, Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews. Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has overturned the death penalty, ruling "that prosecutors violated Ronell Wilson's constitutional rights by attacking his claims of remorse during the penalty phase of his trial."

According to the NY Law Journal, "Mr. Wilson declined to testify in his own defense during the trial and had expressed remorse during the penalty phase, albeit in an unsworn statement read to the jury that was not subject to cross examination. But prosecutors from the Eastern District U.S. Attorney's Office told the jury that Mr. Wilson forced the government to go to trial rather than plead guilty, and his expression of remorse should be discredited because the 'path to the witness stand has never been blocked for Mr. Wilson.'"

Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs said Wilson's Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights were violated, "These arguments were potent -- no juror found that Wilson accepted responsibility or showed remorse, and every juror found that Wilson presented a risk of future dangerousness... On these facts, it is hard to see how the government can prove that these errors were harmless. Indeed, the government’s emphasis on these arguments during summation suggests they were not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt."

Andrews and Nemorin were in a car during a gun buy-and-bust operation when Wilson shot them in the back of their heads. A spokesperson for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, "Commissioner Kelly believes that the murder of a police officer is an attack on society itself and should be punished with the death penalty."