After more than 40 years without an execution, the U.S. military could soon resume capital punishment as two death row inmates at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., are exhausting their final appeals and their cases move toward the Oval Office for a death warrant signed by the commander in chief, reports the Houston Chronicle. The two death sentences – both affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court and under review by the Department of Defense – have languished in recent years, and some say the war in Iraq and domestic politics render authorities reluctant to send two former active-duty soldiers into the death chamber.
The cases are “potential hot potatoes” for President Bush, said Eugene Fidell, a Washington lawyer and military-law expert. The issue drew attetion when Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar was convicted last week of killing two comrades in a grenade attack on his own camp in Kuwait at the start of the Iraq war. A military jury sentenced Akbar to death. A Texas case is among the oldest on the military’s death row. Army Pfc. Dwight Loving was convicted in the 1988 killing of two cab drivers in Killeen. Another case heading toward the president’s desk involves Cpl. Ronald Gray, sentenced to death in 1988 for killing two women and raping a third near Fort Bragg.