A 58-year-old man in prison since 1980 was executed Thursday for killing a child rapist after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee denied his request for clemency.
Nicholas Todd Sutton died by electric chair after a final meal of fried pork chops, mashed potatoes with gravy and peach pie with vanilla ice cream, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.
Sutton’s plea to be spared the death penalty came with testimonials from seven law enforcement officers. One of them said Sutton saved his life from three other inmates during a prison riot in 1985.
“After careful consideration of Nicholas Sutton’s request for clemency and a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the State of Tennessee and will not be intervening,” Lee said in a statement denying the petition.
His attorney Kevin Sharp, a former federal judge, credited Sutton with saving the lives of two other officials, a prison manager who slipped and fell with keys and radio in 1994 and a sheriff’s deputy who Sutton protected from getting hit in the back of the head by a fellow inmate.
“Nick Sutton’s is a once-in-a-lifetime case for clemency,” Sharp said. “He has saved the lives of three correction 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.”
Sutton was convicted in 1980 of killing his grandmother, knocking her unconscious and throwing her into a river where she drowned. Sutton was 18 at the time.
After he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, Sutton confessed to killing his friend from high school, John Large, and 46-year-old Charles Almon in North Carolina.
He received two more life sentences.
Less than five years into his incarceration, he and another inmate fatally stabbed Carl Estep, a convicted child rapist, in a cell at Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility in January 1985. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
Sutton’s latest request was to be moved off death row and serve life in prison without parole.
The petition argued Sutton committed his crimes at a young age after being abused by his mentally ill father, who beat him and taught him to take drugs. Since, he has become a model inmate, his attorneys said.
Sutton opted for the electric chair instead of lethal injection, concerned that Tennessee’s method leads to a torturous death.
Sutton was the fourth person put to death since Lee took office in January 2019, the 13th since the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty constitutional in 1976 and the first since December, when Leroy Hall Jr. was electrocuted.
Despite Lee’s rejection of Sutton’s request, Sharp said his legal team would “continue to seek every available avenue of possible relief for Mr. Sutton.”