In 1992, a US Army court of Military Review decided an petition of appeal on the court martial of Specialist Ronald A. Gray, convicted of “attempted murder, premeditated murder (two specifications), rape (three specifications), larceny, robbery (two specifications), forcible sodomy (two specifications), and burglary” and was sentenced (at his 1991 trial) to death.
UNITED STATES, Appellee v. Specialist Four RONALD A. GRAY, 261-69-7258, United States Army, Appellant
UNITED STATES ARMY COURT OF MILITARY REVIEW
37 M.J. 730
In the December 15, 1992, decision Judge Naughton wrote:
On 6 January, the authorities observed the appellant with a dark bundle underneath his arm. When the authorities apprehended the appellant, he no longer had the bundle; however, authorities found a pair of black karate or “ninja” pants close by in a garbage can. A portion of the cloth belt strap was missing from the pants. The appellant denied committing any offenses and invoked his right to counsel.
A few hours later the authorities discovered Ms. R’s body in the woods not far from her taxi cab. The body was lying face down in a wooded area. The body was nude except for a pair of socks. Ms. R had been gagged with the black cloth belt strap from the appellant’s “ninja” pants, and her hands had been tied behind her back. She had received multiple stab wounds. She also suffered bruises on her eyebrow, bruises on her nose, and a laceration on her lip. Swabs taken from her vagina and anus revealed that she had been raped and sodomized. The appellant’s fingerprints were found on the interior door handle of Ms. R’s taxi, and money in his possession at the time of his arrest was found to have Ms. R’s fingerprints on it.
This Court went on to affirm the convictions and the sentence of death:
We conclude that the sentence is appropriate for the crimes of which the accused stands convicted.
But this was not the end (nor was it the beginning) for US v. Gray in the Federal Courts. In fact, Lexis Shepardizing lists this case with three prior history citations and 48(!) subsequent history citations – many many motions denied. In March 1995, the case was argued before the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and then reargued in December of 1996 and finally decided in May 1999. The Court again affirmed the criminal convictions and the order of death. This US v Gray case will appear again (when we get to #35) in our NinjaLaw review of all “ninja” opinions because the 1999 decision also mentions the “ninja pants” by including and appendix list of all of appellant’s claims of error, including:
18. The military judge improperly denied the defense motion to suppress the black “ninja” pants.
In 2001, the Supreme Court of the United States (Justices Rehnquist, Stevens, O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Breyer) denied the petition for writ of certiorari in March 2001 and then in May 2001 denied petition for rehearing.
But still that was not the end for Specialist Ronald Gray.
A 2008 court stayed the execution and just this past January 26, 2012, a US Army Court of Criminal Appeals decided yet another denial:
Private E1 RONALD GRAY United States Army, Petitioner v. Colonel ERIC BELCHER, Commandant, United States Disciplinary Barracks and THE UNITED STATES, Respondents
ARMY MISC 201100931
1 The docket number for petitioner’s direct appeal is ACMR 8800807.
UNITED STATES ARMY COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS
70 M.J. 646
Judge Johnson denied this most recent motion, a “Petition for Extraordinary Relief in the Nature of a Writ of Error Coram Nobis”, and explained some of the recent history:
On 28 July 2008, the President of the United States [George W. Bush] approved petitioner’s sentence to death and ordered it executed. The Secretary of the Army scheduled petitioner’s execution for 10 December 2008; however, before it could be carried out, the United States District Court for the District of Kansas granted a stay of execution in anticipation of petitioner filing a petition for extraordinary relief in the nature of a writ of habeas corpus. Thereafter, petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus, which is still pending before that court.
On 11 February 2011, petitioner filed with this court the instant petition for extraordinary relief in the nature of a writ of coram nobis. We then ordered the government to show cause why the writ should not issue, and it filed an answer brief on 14 March 2011. Petitioner filed a reply brief on 13 June 2011. Petitioner is currently in confinement at the United States Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Meanwhile, a 2008 opinion, US v. O’Neil, cited the 1992 Gray opinion for the principle: “photographs, although gruesome, are admissible”. By all accounts Gray was convicted of horrible acts of violence and nearly every Court since 1991 has ruled against him and yet still 20 years later his death sentence has not been imposed. This would be the first execution in the military since John A. Bennett in 1961.
But it still may be quite a long life left for Ronald Gray. Who knows how long these court proceedings could continue?