By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – A death row inmate convicted more than three decades ago of stabbing a fellow prisoner to death over a drug deal gone bad is scheduled for execution on Thursday by electric chair in Tennessee.
The execution of Nicholas Todd Sutton, 58, is set to take place at 7 p.m. CST (0100 GMT) at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, 34 years after he was convicted of killing Carl Estep.
Sutton would become the fourth inmate in the United States, and the first in Tennessee, to be executed in 2020. Since 2018, four other U.S. inmates have died in the electric chair.
In 1985, Sutton was serving time at the Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility for three murders in 1979.
During the morning of Jan. 15, as prison guards were on a shift change, Sutton and Thomas Street entered Estep’s cell and stabbed him 38 times in the chest and neck with two homemade knives, prosecutors said.
According to court records, four inmates testified they saw the men enter the prison cell and heard screaming. One of the inmates said he saw Sutton hold a knife to Estep’s throat during a “physical discussion” two days beforehand.
One of the inmates also said Estep was a marijuana dealer at the facility who had sold the men “bad merchandise” and refused to refund their money. He testified that after the men took Estep’s watch, Estep threatened to kill Sutton.
In 1986, a Morgan County Criminal Court jury convicted Sutton of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death. Street was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. A third man who was accused of taking part in the attack was acquitted.
As of Wednesday, Sutton was awaiting word on whether the U.S. Supreme Court would stay the execution to allow a state court to hear his appeal of a Tennessee law that allowed prosecutors to seek the death penalty in his case.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said he would not intervene or grant Sutton’s request for clemency.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Tom Brown)