Sunday, 23 November 2008

U.S. Military Schedules Execution

U.S. Military Schedules Execution

"Military has date for first execution since 1961," is the title of an AP report via the San Francisco Chronicle.

A former Army cook convicted of multiple rapes and murders is set to die next month in what would be the U.S. military's first execution in nearly 50 years.

The military said Thursday that former North Carolina soldier Ronald A. Gray is to be executed Dec. 10 at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind.

Gray was arrested in connection with four slayings and eight rapes in the Fayetteville, N.C., area between April 1986 and January 1987, while he was stationed at Fort Bragg. He was convicted of murdering two women.

President Bush approved Gray's execution in July, and a month later Army Secretary Pete Geren set the execution date and ordered that Gray be put to death by injection. The date was publicly released Thursday.

"The Army is moving forward with plans to fulfill the court-martial sentence," said Army spokesman Lt. Col. George Wright.

Gray has appealed his case through military courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case in 2001. Wright said Gray had two legal options remaining: filing a petition with a federal appellate court to stay the execution, or request that the president reconsider approval of the execution.

Army personnel will be responsible for conducting the execution in Indiana based on an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Only 10 members of the military have been executed since 1951, when the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military's modern-day legal system, was enacted.

President Eisenhower was the last president to approve a military execution. That was for John Bennett, who was hanged in 1961 for raping and attempting to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl.

On Feb. 12, 1962, President Kennedy commuted the death sentence of Jimmy Henderson, a Navy seaman, to confinement for life.

Gray, 43, is being confined at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

AP writer John Milburn notes that four other military personnel are under sentence of death.

"Army sets execution date for Fort Leavenworth inmate," is the Kansas City Star report by Dawn Borman.

President George W. Bush signed an order in July that approved the Army’s recommendation to execute Gray. At the time, it was unclear whether the execution would be carried out before Bush’s term expired. Army officials said Thursday that they cannot rule out further appeals from Gray’s legal team.

“The president took action following completion of a full appellate process, which upheld the conviction and sentence to death. Two petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court were denied during the appellate processing of Pvt. Gray’s case,” according to an Army press release.

Gray was convicted in April 1988 at Fort Bragg, N.C., of two murders, an attempted murder and three rapes.

The last military execution was at Fort Leavenworth in 1961 when John A. Bennett was hanged. Much has changed since 1961 at the Disciplinary Barracks. The Army opened a new prison in 2002. Although Army officials designated a space for an execution chamber, they stopped short of immediately equipping the area for the military’s present method of execution, lethal injection.

Recent military changes have opened the door for executions at other federal facilities.

"Army sets soldier's execution date," by Military Editor Henry Cunningham is in North Carolina's Fayetteville Observer.

Earlier coverage is here and here.

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