Bush nod for rare execution by military (Lead)

July 29th, 2008 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 29 (IANS) US President George W. Bush has approved the first execution by the military since 1961, upholding the death sentence awarded to an army private convicted for a series of rapes and murders he committed over two decades ago. In his capacity as commander-in-chief, with the final authority to approve capital punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Bush did so Monday in the case of Ronald A. Gray, convicted by court martial for two killings and an attempted murder at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a White House statement 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,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement.

“Private Gray was convicted of committing brutal crimes, including two murders, an attempted murder and three rapes,” she added.

The last military execution, ordered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was carried out by hanging in 1961.

Although the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in the military in 1996, no one has been executed since President Ronald Reagan reinstated capital punishment in 1984 for military crimes.

Bush is considered a supporter of the death penalty.

There are six people reported to be on the military’s death row, but Gray’s case was the first that went to Bush. Gray’s case can still be appealed, and an execution is not expected to occur soon, possibly not during Bush’s remaining months in office. It was even unclear what the method of execution would be.

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