United States confirms first military death sentence since 1957

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

The President of the United States, George W. Bush, has approved the death sentence of an Army Private convicted of multiple rapes and murders.

Pvt. Ronald A. Gray, stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina at the time, was found guilty in courts-martial for the rape and murder of Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay, a fellow soldier at Fort Bragg, and civilian taxi driver Kimberly Ann Ruggles. He was also convicted of rape and attempted murder in the case of a another Army Pvt. Mary Ann Lang Nameth.

United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth
Image: US DOD.

Gray's conviction and death sentence were upheld in the Army Court of Military Review (now the Army Court of Criminal Appeals) and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. The case was denied certiorari by the Supreme Court of the United States. His sentence was submitted to President Bush for approval, in accordance to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, in 2005.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said "while approving a sentence of death for a member of our armed services is a serious and difficult decision for a commander in chief, the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the sentence is just and warranted." Perino also stated that the White House expects additional appeals involving this case.

Silas, a former military attorney who represented Gray on appeal stated that the decision to execute Grey was "disappointing news, as you can imagine."

Gray has been on deathrow since April 1988. The 1988 tribunal unanimously sentenced Gray to death, and he has been held at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, ever since.

Prior to his court-martial, he pled guilty in a state court in North Carolina to two additional murders and five additional rapes in the Fayetteville area. All the crimes occurred between April 1986 and January 1987, when he was arrested following a rape.

If carried out, Gray's execution would be the first of an American soldier since Army Pvt. John Bennett was hanged in 1961 for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old girl in Austria.

Six other soldiers are on death row, and in addition the Army is seeking approval for the death sentence of Pvt. Dwight J. Loving, who was sentenced to death for robbing and murdering two taxi drivers in 1988.

President Bush has ordered the executions of three Federal death row inmates during his Administration, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. He signed the death warrants of 152 inmates during his time as Governor of Texas.