A former US Army soldier who has been on death row since 1988 for raping and murdering several women could now face execution after a judge denied his bid for another stay of execution.
Judge J. Thomas Marten of the US District Court for the District of Kansas wrote last week that a previously granted stay of execution to Ronald Gray was “no longer in effect,” denying his request to further block the military from carrying out the death sentence.
If Gray is put to death, it will be the first military execution since 1961, when John Bennett was hanged at Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas after he was convicted of raping and attempting to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl.
The current military method of execution is lethal injection.
Gray is one of six former servicemen currently on the military’s death row at Fort Leavenworth. The most recent addition to that group is former Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was convicted of 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder after his 2009 shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas.
Gray was convicted and condemned to death in military court in 1988 for two murders and three rapes in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, area while stationed at Fort Bragg and serving as a cook. He pleaded guilty in civilian courts to two other killings and five rapes.
The Army declined to comment on the case. “As there are still pending legal actions associated with the case of Inmate Ronald A. Gray, it would be inappropriate to comment,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson.
Gray came close to being put to death in 2008, when then-President George W. Bush signed a warrant authorizing his execution. But a federal court gave Gray a last-minute temporary stay.
In 1983, a military appeals court found the death penalty to be unconstitutional because of problems with the armed forces’ sentencing guidelines, but President Ronald Reagan soon after reinstated capital punishment in the military.
The President has the power to commute a death sentence and no service member can be executed unless the President confirms the death penalty.
While no execution date has yet been set, Army regulations state that a could be set sometime in the next 30 days. Gray’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.