US President George W. Bush has approved the death penalty for a soldier found guilty of two homicides and three rapes in the 1980s.
“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 Monday.
Bush on Monday authorized the execution of Pvt. Ronald A. Gray, convicted by court-martial in serial rapes and killings at Fort Bragg, N.C. in 1986-87.
The approval is considered the first by the military in 51 years, when John Bennett, an army private convicted of raping and attempting to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl was hanged in 1961. His death sentence was approved by then president Eisenhower in 1957.
The death penalty was outlawed between 1972 and 1984, when president Reagan reinstated capital punishment.
Six people are currently on death row at a US Disciplinary Barracks, nicknamed ‘The Castle’ at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
The military has also asked Bush to authorize the execution of Dwight J. Loving, imprisoned since 1989 after being convicted of killing two taxicab drivers while he was an army private at Fort Hood, Texas.