|President Bush approved the death sentence of Pvt. Ronald Gray, thefirst execution by the military since 1961. The former Army cook wasconvicted by court-martial of two murders and an attempted murder,among other offenses, while serving at Fort Bragg, N.C., in themid-1980s.
Gray had been charged with four counts of murderand eight counts of rape, and pleaded guilty to two murders and fiverapes in North Carolina state court.
In a separateproceeding, a court-martial panel convicted him of two counts ofmurder, one count of attempted murder and a slew of other charges,including rape, forcible sodomy and robbery.
An appeals courtfor the Armed Services rejected Gray's appeal in 1999, and Bushapproved his death sentence on Monday under the Uniform Code ofMilitary Justice.
"While approving a sentence of death for amember of our armed forces is a serious and difficult decision for acommander-in-chief, the president believes the facts of this case leaveno doubt that the sentence is just and warranted," White House PressSecretary Dana Perino said in a statement.
The last militaryexecution was ordered by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957, and wascarried out by hanging in 1961. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld themilitary's use of the death penalty in 1996, but no one in the servicehas been executed since the Eisenhower administration. President JohnF. Kennedy chose to commute a death sentence to life in prison in 1962.
Currently, six people sit on military's death row at FortLeavenworth, Kan. The president has the final say whether they live ordie.