Death row inmate scheduled to die by electric chair loses last attempt at life in prison

Danielle Zoellner
Tennessee Department of Corrections

The Tennessee governor has denied clemency to a murderer on death row following a last-ditch effort to get him life in prison made by multiple people, including a former guard who says the man saved his life.

Nicholas Sutton, 58, is scheduled to die by electric chair on Thursday evening for the 1985 murder of inmate Carl Estep.

His attorneys filed an appeal for clemency on 14 January, and it included multiple people advocating for removing Mr Sutton from death row. Kevin Sharp, one of Sutton's attorney, described his client's petition as "a once-in-a-lifetime case for clemency," UPI reports.

"He has saved the lives of three corrections officials during his incarceration; his request for clemency was supported by seven former and current Tennessee correction professionals, family members of victims, five of the original jurors and others," Sharp said.

In total, Sutton has been convicted of four murders, three of which happened in 1979 when he was 18 years old. He was handed three life sentences for the three murders, one of whom was his grandmother.

The murder of Carl Estep put Sutton on death row at Morgan County Correctional Facility. That's where Sutton was serving time when he stabbed his fellow inmate 38 times to death. His lawyers claimed the murder was a "kill or be killed" situation after the man was allegedly attacked by another inmate.

His defence team was not seeking for Sutton to walk free. Instead, they wanted to take him off death row and serve the rest of his sentence in prison until he died.

Included in the appeal for clemency were affidavits from multiple corrections officials.

Tony Eden said Mr Sutton protected him during an inmate riot at Tennessee State Prison in 1985. He said the man confronted a group of five inmates who were attempting to take him hostage.

Nicholas Sutton was denied his final appeal to serve life in prison. The death row inmate will die by electric chair on Thursday (Tennessee Department of Corrections)

"I have four boys and a girl now who probably wouldn't be here if that day turned out differently," Mr Eden told CBS News. "I wouldn't have the life I have today if it weren't for Nick."

He was one of seven current and former prison officials who implored the Tennessee governor, Bill Lee, to commute Sutton's death sentence. The document detailed three separate incidents the death row inmate stepped in and protected staff from other prisoners.

But Mr Lee denied the petition.

This denial comes as Tennessee Supreme Court previously halted all executions in 2015 after legal challenges by death row inmates. Executions then resumed in 2018.

Sutton will become the 13th inmate to be executed by the state of Tennessee. He selected his final meal on Wednesady, which he will be served on Thursday. It includes fried pork chops, mashed potatoes with gravy, and peach pie with vanilla ice cream.

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