NASHVILLE — A serial rapist and murderer from Hamilton County has been scheduled to be put to death later this year.
Harold Wayne Nichols, 60, will be executed on Aug. 4 for the 1988 death of Karen Pulley. He was convicted in 1990.
Nichols' date was one of two set Wednesday by the Tennessee Supreme Court, but justices still haven't ruled on the attorney general's requests to set seven more.
The other death row inmate scheduled to die is Oscar Franklin Smith, who will be put to death on June 4.
Smith, 70, was convicted of murder in the 1989 triple slayings of his estranged wife Judy Lynn Smith and her two sons from a previous marriage, Chad and Jason Burnett, in Nashville.
The state was second only to Texas in the number of executions it carried out in 2019. The country as a whole has been moving away from putting inmates to death.
Tennessee resumed executions in August 2018, and four of the six prisoners put to death since have chosen the electric chair, a method no other state has used since 2009.
The last person to be put to death in the state was Chattanooga man Lee Hall, who was executed by electric chair in December for killing his estranged girlfriend.
The court found no extenuating circumstances that would warrant commuting the two men's death sentences.
Kelley Henry, supervisory assistant federal public defender in Nashville, said Smith has maintained his innocence all along.
"We recently learned that at least 2 jurors who voted to sentence Mr. Smith to death mistakenly believed that a life sentence meant a mere 13 years in prison," Henry said in a statement Wednesday. "We will explore all options on Mr. Smith's behalf."
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery requested all nine execution dates in September. That same day, he sought to reinstate a death sentence for Abu-Ali Abudur'Rahman, a black man who was resentenced to life in prison in August after raising claims that racism tainted the jury selection process. The state Supreme Court has since stayed his execution date of April 2020.
The next scheduled execution is Feb. 20, when the state plans to put 59-year-old inmate Nicholas Sutton to death. Sutton was sentenced to death in 1985 for fatally stabbing fellow inmate Carl Estep after a confrontation over a drug deal.
Sutton was 23 at the time and already serving a life sentence for killing his grandmother when he was 18. He had also been convicted of murdering Charles Almon and John Large in North Carolina when he was 18.
Sutton's clemency request says he has transformed from a killer to someone who saved the lives of prison employees and fellow inmates.