updated 1/30/2007 11:40:51 PM ET 2007-01-31T04:40:51

A man convicted of fatally shooting two detectives during an undercover gun buy — one as he begged for his life — was sentenced to death Tuesday.

Ronell Wilson, 24, became the first person in more than 50 years to be sentenced to death in a federal case in New York. The last time was in 1954 for a bank robber who killed an FBI agent.

He was convicted last month of murder, robbery, carjacking and firearms charges.

“I just want to say thank you to God and thank you to the jurors,” Rose Nemorin, the widow of one of the detectives, said outside court.

The defense said it would appeal.

“It’s sad when justice and vengeance become one and the same,” attorney Ephraim Savitt said.

Prosecutors claimed Wilson knew Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin were undercover New York Police Department detectives when he climbed into the back seat of their unmarked car on the pretense of selling them an illegal gun in 2003. Both officers were shot in the head, Nemorin after he pleaded for his life.

The verdict “speaks to the appropriate punishment for Ronell Wilson,” said U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf. “It also speaks to the sacrifice of Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin.”

Jurors had indicated on a verdict form that they didn’t believe Wilson had taken responsibility or shown remorse. They agreed he “represents a continuing danger to the lives and safety of other persons,” according to the form.

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