Soldier's Denied Appeal May Pave Way for Death Sentence

Soldier's denied appeal may pave way for death sentence

Last month, convicted killer and death row inmate, Ronald Gray, had yet another appeal denied by judicial authorities. Gray, a former serviceman, was convicted in 1988 for a series of rapes and murders that took place between 1986 and 1987 at Fort Bragg and Fairlane Acres Mobile Home Park in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Authorities arrested Gray for the rape of a woman near Fairlane Acres in January 1987. After Gray's arrest, officials found the bodies of Kimberly Ann Ruggles and Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay near the same mobile home park. The women had been raped and murdered.

Following his arrest, another victim came forward claiming Gray "raped her, and stabbed her repeatedly in the neck and side" while she slept in her barracks at Fort Bragg. Gray was a former Army cook, and he held the rank of specialist at the time of his arrest. Gray was eventually convicted of two counts of murder for the deaths of Ruggles and Vickery-Clay and three counts of rape.

Gray also pleaded guilty to two additional murders for the deaths of Linda Jean Coats, a student at Campbell University, and Tammy Wilson, another soldier's wife, as well as five other rapes. Ultimately, Gray was sentenced to death by a military tribunal, while a civilian court sentenced him to eight life terms.

A death sentence issued by a military court requires final approval from the President. President George W. Bush approved Gray's 1988 death sentence, and his execution was set for December 2008. Before the execution could take place, Gray filed this appeal, which temporarily halted his fate until now.

Last month's opinion filed by U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten signaled the end of Gray's long-running appeal, which began after Bush signed off on Gray's sentence in 2008. Bush's approval came after nearly two decades of appeals, including the two denied petitions by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a detailed 57-page memorandum, Marten explained how despite the severity of Gray's sentence, he felt that a majority of the relief sought by Gray couldn't be granted. With the resolution of Gray's latest appeal, it is unclear whether another stay would be granted, or whether Gray will once again appeal to a higher court.

Should Gray choose not to file another appeal, then this latest decision could pave the way for his execution. Gray would be the U.S. military's first execution in 54 years, with the last coming in 1961 when John A. Bennett was hanged for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl.

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