Second Circuit Vacates Death Sentence, U.S. v. Wilson - June 30, 2010
Posted on: 7/1/2010 07:12:05 AM by Lominack

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the death sentence of Ronell Wilson who had been convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of two undercover police detectives. The Court of Appeals agreed with Wilson that two prosecution arguments were improper. The government argued (1) that Wilson rather than pleading guilty - and demonstrating acceptance of responsibility - had forced the government to prove its case and (2) that Wilson could have taken the witness stand rather than simply allocuted. The Court found that the first argument unconstitutionally burdened Wilson's right to a jury trial. The second government argument, the Court found, violated Wilson's Fifth Amendment right not to testify even though he had allocuted, which resulted in a limited - but not total - waiver of his rights under the Fifth Amendment. Noting that no juror found that Wilson had accepted responsibility or showed remorse and every juror had found that Wilson presented a risk of future dangerousness, the Court found that these two constitutional errors were not harmless. Click here for the full opinion.