NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Friday issued a temporary reprieve to a Tennessee death row inmate who had been scheduled to be executed later this year.
“I am granting Harold Wayne Nichols a temporary reprieve from execution until December 31, 2020, due to the challenges and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," Lee said in a statement.
The governor, who has declined to halt four previous executions during his first-term in office, offered no other explanation for his decision.
The 59-year-old Nichols had been scheduled to die by electrocution on Aug. 4. The state Supreme Court had already twice declined to delay his execution because of the coronavirus pandemic. His attorney had been looking for a delay in federal court.
To date, only the courts have rescheduled executions in Tennessee because of the health crisis. Oscar Smith was slated to die in June, but his execution date is now in February 2021, and Byron Black was scheduled to die in October, until his date was reset to April 2021.
Tennessee resumed executions in August 2018 at a pace topped only by Texas. During that time, seven Tennessee inmates have been put to death, with only two selecting lethal injection.
Nichols was convicted of rape and first-degree felony murder in the 1988 death of Karen Pulley in Hamilton County.
Feb. 20 was the most recent execution in Tennessee, when Nicholas Sutton died in the electric chair.