Ronald Gray raped and battered at least seven women. He killed four, and left the others for dead -- the bodies dumped around Fort Bragg and the neighboring city of Fayetteville, North Carolina, between 1986 and 1987.
He was caught and, just as in the civilian system, he was tried.
He was found guilty by a jury of his peers, just as in the civilian system.
And a death sentence was passed, just as would have been possible in a civilian court for such a heinous crime.
But when it comes to staying alive, history is on Gray's side. The U.S. military has not executed one of its own since 1961.
The former soldier came close to being put to death in 2008, when then President George W. Bush signed a warrant authorizing Gray's execution -- a requirement for capital punishment in the military.
A federal court gave Gray a last-minute temporary stay, and today he -- along with four other former servicemen -- remains on the military's death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Army Maj. Nidal Hasan may become the next resident of the military's death row, if he is convicted for the shooting rampage at Fort Hood that killed 13 people and sentenced to death. Opening statements in the murder trial are scheduled to begin August 6.
Legal issues, including whether cases were handled appropriately, have affected some cases, analysts say.
But a larger part of the equation appears to be the sometimes cloistered military culture, from a commanding general who can override a jury's verdict to the routine military reshuffling of personnel, including prosecutors, defense attorneys and witnesses, every two or three years.
"The military is a community of solidarity, a brotherhood and sisterhood, all to its own," defense lawyer Teresa Norris said. "There is a real reluctance to execute fellow soldiers unless it's absolutely the worst kind of case and this is the only way."
There is little disagreement by the Army that the death penalty is used only in extreme cases. But that doesn't mean it won't mete out or carry out the punishment, it says.
"Adherence to the law, due process, and respect for the rights of someone accused of crime, combined with respect for civilian oversight of the military justice system, should not be mistaken for an unwillingness to execute the law," said Army Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt, deputy chief of public affairs.
Norris represents former Army Pfc. Dwight Loving, sentenced to death in 1989 when he was 21 years old for robbing and murdering two cab drivers -- a retired sergeant and a soldier moonlighting to earn extra money -- at Fort Hood, Texas.
Sent to an intimidating prison with a brick façade at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Loving for a time was expected to be the first person the military put to death in decades.
Military officers and other important types were shown where he was kept in the stark prison known as "the Castle," reserved for the worst of the worst and the inspiration for a book and later a movie, "The Last Castle," starring Robert Redford as a court-martialed general.
They were told, Norris says, that Loving would soon be executed.
That was 1992.
Today, "the Castle" has been rendered obsolete, and Loving is awaiting execution in a new, state-of-the-art military prison.
"Me and my client were essentially expecting an execution within 18 months, and here we are all these years later," said Norris, who represented Loving as a military defense attorney and now as a civilian.
The U.S. military has executed 135 men since 1916 -- considered the start of the era of the modern fighting force -- for crimes ranging from murder to rape, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.
Only 10 of these executions have taken place since 1951. The U.S. military carried out its last execution on April 13, 1961, with the hanging of Army Pvt. John A. Bennett, who was convicted in 1955 of the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl.
A number of death sentences were converted to life sentences in 1983 when a military appeals court found the death penalty was unconstitutional because of problems with the armed forces' sentencing guidelines.