Monday, July 28, 2008

Bush approves execution of U.S. Army private

Bush approves execution of U.S. Army private | U.S. | ReutersPvt. Ronald Gray, seen here in 1988, has been on the military's death row for 20 years.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Monday approved the death sentence of an Army private convicted of murder and rape in 1988, becoming the first U.S. president to approve a military execution in 51 years.

Bush signed a request by the military that Ronald Gray be put to death following his court-martial conviction 20 years ago on multiple charges of murder and rape.

"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 spokeswoman Dana Perino said a statement.

Unlike the civilian court system, the U.S. military justice system dictates that a member of the armed forces cannot be executed until the president approves the death sentence.

Citing expected legal challenges, Perino declined further comment on what would be the first U.S. military execution since 1961, when a convicted child rapist was hanged after his sentence was approved by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957.