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Murdered woman’s sister supports the execution of ex-soldier in a potentially historic move

Ronald Gray, left, leaving a Fort Bragg courtroom in 1988.

(Marcus Castro/the Fayetteville Observer via AP, File)

The sister of a woman murdered more than 30 years ago in North Carolina, says she and her family fully support the military planned execution of woman’s killer, a former soldier.

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The execution would be the first by the U.S. military in more than half a century. A Kansas federal judge earlier this month lifted the stay of execution for the former Fort Bragg soldier Ronald A. Gray, who is being held in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Gray was convicted in the military and the civil courts of the raping of women and killing of four, including the 18-year-old Tammy Cofer Wilson. He was sentenced to death in a Fort Bragg court-martial in 1988.

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Wilson’s sister, Honey Rosalie Schlehuber of Chickasha, Oklahoma, told The Fayetteville Observer she would like to witness Gray’s execution, and that her entire family has struggled since the murder.

U. S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten last week on the side of the AMERICAN government, in denying Gray’s bid to block the military from pushing through with the execution by a lethal injection.

The military carried out the last execution in Fort Leavenworth in 1961, when it hanged, Army Pvt. John Bennett for rape and trying to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl.

No known implementation date is chosen for Grey. Although Gray’s lawyers have said in recent court filings that they planned to ask the military courts to intervene, then the status of that appeal was unclear. A message from the Associated Press with Gray capital public defender, Tim Kane, was not immediately returned.

Grey was condemned and ordered to be sentenced in the military court in 1988 for two murders and three rapes in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, while stationed in Fort Bragg, where he attained the rank of specialist and was a cook. He pleaded guilty in civilian court to two other murders and five rapes and was sentenced to eight life terms, three of them consecutive.

Grey, 51, is one of the six people on the US military’s death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit research group that opposes the death penalty. Those prisoners, whose appeals are pending, Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people in a 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas.

The president has the power to commute a military death penalty, and no service member can be put to death, unless the president signs off on it, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The commander of the Fort Leavenworth disciplinary barracks where Gray is being held is the one who would plan the date and the time of the execution, according to federal court filings.

The federal appeal was filed in 2008 for Gray, whose lawyers claimed he had an ineffective lawyer in his earlier case and not the mental capacity to stand trial. Gray’s appellate lawyers have also questioned the military jurisdiction over the case.

In November 2008, another Kansas federal judge, Richard Rogers, issued a stay for the Grey two weeks before his scheduled execution.

In successfully pressing for Marten to lift the stay, the federal prosecutors argued in a court filing Dec. 9 which is Gray, “seems to believe that he is entitled to an indefinite federal stay of execution while he exhausts his remedies in the military courts. This is not the law.”

Several factors help explain the absence of military executions in the past few decades. Condemned prisoners can appeal their death sentences to the military and the civil courts, potentially delaying an execution for decades, such as in Gray’s case.

In 1983, the armed forces’ highest court ruled that the military death penalty law is constitutionally flawed because it is not “aggravating factors to help judges decide which cases deserve the death penalty. That ruling has resulted in a number of death sentences converted to life terms.

But the following year, President Ronald Reagan reinstated the military death penalty, defining who is subject to the death penalty in the armed forces through an executive order. The Supreme court of the V. S. in 1996, supported Reagan’s action as constitutional.

In 1997, the Uniform Code of Military Justice — the military contemporary legal system — changed to add a life sentence without the possibility of parole, as an alternative to the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

In October, the Supreme court of the V. S. said that it would not hear a challenge to the death penalty for the soldiers, the rejection of an appeal by an ex-soldier sentenced to death for killing two fellow soldiers and injuring 14 others in an attack in Kuwait in 2003.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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