[JURIST] US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] lawyers on Tuesday filed a challenge [motion, PDF] to a federal judge's decision to stay the execution of convicted murder suspect US Army private Ronald Gray. Judge Richard Rogers for the US District Court for the District of Kansas last week ordered the stay [order, PDF] of the execution, which had been scheduled for December 10, in order to give Gray the opportunity to challenge his sentence. Lawyers for Gray sought the stay, arguing [motion text] that they could not make appeals based on changes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] since Gray's conviction until after President George W. Bush approved his execution [JURIST report] in July. DOJ lawyers objected to the stay, arguing that his defense has had ample opportunity to file appeals on his behalf.
Gray's execution was the first military execution to be approved by a president since 1961 [NYT report]. Gray was first tried by a civilian court for his connection to four murders and eight rapes in North Carolina in the mid-1980s. He pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and five counts of rape, and the court sentenced him to life in prison. Gray was then sentenced to death for murder and rape by a court-martial panel in 1988, a military sentence that requires presidential approval under the UCMJ. Gray later appealed his court-martial sentence, but the Court of Appeals for the Armed Services rejected Gray's appeal [opinion text] in 1999, and the US Supreme Court denied certiorari [government Supreme Court brief, PDF] in 2001.