Federal, military courts proceed cautiously in Ronald Gray death penalty case
The longest-serving prisoner on the military’s death row was facing an imminent execution date in 2008. Two decades after a horrific rape and murder spree on and around Ft. Bragg, N.C., that left four young women dead and several more injured, former Spc. Ronald Gray’s military appeals appeared to have been exhausted.
President George W. Bush had approved Gray’s execution — to be the first in the military in more than 50 years — and the Army had selected a December day to kill him by lethal injection.
But Gray, 51, still on death row at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., is unlikely to be executed any time soon. His case, after languishing in federal court for eight years, now is headed back to the military courts.
“I think that process could take some time,” said James Cross, a spokesman for the Kansas U.S. Attorney’s Office, which was prosecuting the case at the federal level.
The long-delayed development reflects the confusion among the courts over jurisdiction and procedures in what is essentially the first military death-penalty case “in the modern era,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.
“What made it more complicated here is that nobody knew what the process was because it hasn’t happened before,” Dunham said. “The courts were having a problem determining who had to decide what, when.”
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