There is no question about it: What Pvt. Ronald Gray did was despicable. He was found guilty of multiple rapes, including two murders and one attempted murder. But what is notable about this race is that he will become the first soldier since 1961 to be executed after President George W. Bush approved his execution nearly four months ago.
The U.S. Army put out a press release on this interesting news item today, explaining why President Bush is the only person, as commander-in-chief, who can approve a military execution:
Only the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, can approve the execution of a death sentence [Article 71(a), Uniform Code of Military Justice]. On July 28, 2008, the President approved the death sentence in the case of the United States v Ronald A. Gray. The President took action following completion of a full appellate process, which upheld the conviction and sentence to death. Two petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court were denied during the appellate processing of Pvt. Gray's case.
You can read Article 71(a) here.
According to CNN's report, the last military execution came in 1961. In 1961, Pvt. John Bennett was executed for the rape and attempted murder of an 11 year old Austrian girl. The piece also says that the last time the military tried to have a soldier executed, President John F. Kennedy commuted the sentence. That was the last time a military execution was pursued.
But the news here is President Bush. As we know, Bush is not new to the death penalty game. While he was governor of Texas, he allowed 152 executions to be carried out. Considering Texas has had 422 executions since 1976, that gives you an idea of how much Bush loved the death penalty. And if we are going by percentages, Bush has accounted for 36 percent of all executions in Texas since 1976.
We will hear a lot over the next few months about Bush's legacy. The death penalty should be a part of that legacy. One of Bush's lasting legacies in Texas is how often he utilized the death penalty and how little remorse he showed for those about to die. Bush, who touts himself as a born-again Christian, has possessed a certain love for the death penalty. This military execution is no exception.
The death penalty is one of the few things that makes our country appear third-world. The European Union refuses to execute any criminals and last year, we executed more people than Iraq. We should outlaw the death penalty altogether, but with Bush as president, that wasn't going to happen.
But back to this military execution. There is no question that Pvt. Ronald Gray committed very serious crimes that are deserving of punishment. According to multiple reports, he was originally sentenced to several life terms in prison. What's wrong with that? Keeping the man locked up until he dies in prison is not enough? To me, that is more of a punishment. Killing him does nothing. It doesn't bring back the victims of his crimes. It won't fix what he did. It won't heal the physical and emotional wounds that his victims suffered. All it will do is help feed some radical approach to criminals that Bush has. This obsession of killing those who are accused of wrongdoing.
So if you are looking for a Bush legacy, look no further than the death penalty. And on December 10, when Pvt. Ronald Gray is executed, President Bush can add one last execution to his lifelong tally.