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Veterans Call First Military Execution Approved in 50 Years IllegalTim King Salem-News.com
Veterans advocates say a signature from George W. Bush cleared the way for an illegal execution.
(FAYETTEVILLE, N.C.) - A group of veterans advocates say the federal decision to execute a soldier for crimes he committed two decades ago is illegal, and would in fact constitute Murder, one of the crimes Private Ronald A. Gray was convicted of committing.
It would be the first military execution in almost fifty years. The last execution took place in 1961 when a soldier was hanged for raping and attempting to kill an 11-year old Austrian girl. President Eisenhower approved that execution.
The announcement that Gray would receive a lethal injection came on July 28th 2008, after George W. Bush approved his death sentence. The President was known for an enthusiastic approach to capital punishment as the governor of Texas, when he insisted that mentally retarded criminals would be executed alongside sane and mentally competent convicts.
Only the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, can approve the execution of a death sentence under Article 71(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Gray was convicted in both civilian and military courts for the crimes of Murder and Rape. This is where his rights come into question, according to veteran's activist Tim Harrington. He is quick to point out that he and other veterans advocating for the rights of Gray do not in any way advocate or attempt to excuse his convictions. They just want to see the federal law that protects the rights of this veteran and all others to remain protected.
"He was judged by a 'jury' of his peers who had the death penalty as an option, They elected to give him life sentences. The President of the United States has over stepped his Constitutional authority and has through executive power signed his execution order bypassing the conviction and sentence of the people," Harrington said.
"This does not set him free, this stops a government murder over riding the Constitution. He has under the law been Attained. A military panel and a court-martial does not supersede the constitution and the word JURY does not exist, how do you lawfully take a decision by a court of the people and use a court-martial to override a lawful verdict and decision rendered by a judge of the people?"
Harrington says Congress has the power to dictate and oversee the Navy and land forces, but they do not have the power to change the law of the land and directly over reach the Framers writings.
"This crime against this man's rights and the Constitution are scheduled to happen on December 10th. You cannot have a jury of your peers find you guilty, and give you life sentences, then have your government put you to death by executive order over riding the very purpose of law. This is called 'Attainder'" Harrington said.
He believes that the Constitution is very clear and the Supreme Court of the United States has made these circumstances illegal, adding that it meets all three requirements under the law of Attainder.
The Bill of Attainder Clause, according to techlawjournal.com, addresses legislative acts that single out an individual or group for punishment without a jury of their peers.
They say it was intended not as a narrow, technical (and therefore soon to be outmoded) prohibition, "but rather as an implementation of the separation of powers, a general safeguard against legislative exercise of the judicial function or more simply - trial by legislature." U.S. v. Brown, 381 U.S. 437, 440 (1965).
For its part, the Army says, "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."
Regarding the Attainder Clause, Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist said "Such actions were regarded as odious by the framers of the Constitution because it was the traditional role of a court, judging an individual case, to impose punishment."
The Army has scheduled Gray's execution for Dec. 10th 2008 at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The Secretary of the Army directed that Pvt. Gray be executed by lethal injection, and the Army will be responsible for conducting the execution at the Terre Haute facility based on an agreement with the Bureau of Prisons.
Pvt. Gray is currently housed in the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
To learn more about Harrington's effort to raise awareness on the Gray case, visit: The JAG Hunter Blogspot
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