President Bush on Monday approved the first execution by the military since 1961, upholding the death penalty of an Army private convicted of a series of rapes and murders more than two decades ago, reports the New York Times. As commander in chief, the president has the final authority to approve capital punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and he did so in the case of Pvt. Ronald A. Gray, convicted by court-martial for two killings and an attempted murder at Fort Bragg, N.C. There are six people on the military’s death row. No one has been executed since President Ronald Reagan reinstated capital punishment in 1984 for military crimes.
In a statement, the White House said it was a “serious and difficult decision” for Bush, a supporter of the death penalty. It can still be appealed, which the White House suggested was all but certain, meaning an execution is not expected to occur soon, possibly not during Bush's remaining months in office. The military death penalty has been dormant for so long that it was also unclear what the method of execution would be. Gray was accused of four murders and eight rapes from April 1986 to January 1987 while serving at Fort Bragg. According to the White House's chronology of the case, he pleaded guilty to two murders and five rapes, among other offenses, in state court in North Carolina and was sentenced to life in prison.