President Bush today approved the execution of an Army private, administration officials said. It was the first time in over a half-century that a president has affirmed a death sentence for a member of the US military. Bush OK'd the military's request to execute Ronald A. Gray, convicted in connection with a spree of four murders and eight rapes in the Fayetteville, NC, area over eight months in the late 1980s while stationed at Fort Bragg.
Unlike in the civilian courts, a member of the US Armed Forces cannot be executed until the president approves the death sentence. Gray has been on death row at the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., since April 1988. Members of the US military have been executed throughout history, but just 10 have been executed by presidential approval since 1951 when the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military's modern-day legal system, was enacted into law. President Eisenhower was the last president to approve a military execution. In 1957, he approved the execution of John Bennett, an Army private convicted of raping and attempting to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl. He was hanged in 1961.