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Tennessee Gov. Lee stays execution citing COVID-19

July 18 (UPI) -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has delayed the execution of a death row inmate next month over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Harold Wayne Nichols, 59, was scheduled to be executed Aug. 4 at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. He chose to die by electric chair.

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"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.

Nichols was sentenced to death for the 1988 rape and murder of 21-year-old Karen Pulley.

The Tennessee Supreme Court previously denied Nichols' request for a stay citing the pandemic. The state's highest court in April rescheduled the execution of Oscar Smith in response to the virus while much of Tennessee was still shut down.

Attorneys for several death row inmates in multiple states have asked for reprieves in recent months because stay-at-home orders and other precautions have hindered their ability to carry out the investigations and other legal work typically required in the last several weeks before an execution.

Outbreaks in prisons could also put family members, media witnesses, lawyers and corrections workers at risk on the execution date.

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