NEW YORK — An appeals court tossed out the first federal death sentence given in New York in five decades yesterday, finding that prosecutors improperly advised a jury after it convicted a man of killing two undercover police detectives who were posing as gun buyers.
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan rejected the death sentence given to Ronell Wilson in March 2007 after concluding that prosecutors made legal errors during the penalty phase of the trial that were not corrected by the judge in his instructions to jurors in Brooklyn.
The appeals court upheld the conviction of Wilson in the March 10, 2003, robbery and murder of Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews on Staten Island.
Wilson was caught two days after the killings in Brooklyn, where arresting officers found rap lyrics he had written that appeared to describe the murder, the appeals court said.
“We’re reviewing the decision and considering our options,’’ said Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for federal prosecutors.
Unless the ruling is appealed further, the case returns to a lower court judge to preside over a new death penalty phase.