Former death row prison guard says inmate's life should be spared

Posted at 10:56 PM, Feb 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-13 23:56:51-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A former Riverbend death row prison guard says Nick Sutton -- the next death row inmate scheduled for execution -- should be spared from the electric chair.

In an exclusive interview with NewsChannel 5, former Tennessee Department of Correction Riverbend prison guard Hugh Rushton says Sutton's life deserves to be spared because of how he's turned his life around while on death row.

He says Sutton especially showed his true colors during a massive riot in 1985 at the old Tennessee State Prison.

Rushton says Sutton saved one guard who was being held hostage, escorting him to safety. A clemency application sent to Gov. Bill Lee says Sutton has saved the lives of several corrections officers and other inmates over the years on death row.

Sutton landed there after killing a fellow inmate in Morgan County. He had previously killed three others, including his own grandmother.

Rushton is asking Lee to commute Sutton's death sentence to life in prison without parole, saying after his transformation, he now makes death row safer for other guards. Rushton says Sutton has been granted increasing responsibilities, including maintenance work, while on death row -- a position Rushton says is only granted to inmates who have earned the trust of guards.

Neither Lee nor his predecessor, Gov. Bill Haslam, have commuted the sentence of any death row inmate, including for inmates who were also said to have made personal transformations while on death row.

"For once, the governor should take into consideration that this man has really transformed," said Rushton. "I've seen other inmates that say they did, and I've heard staff that say they did, but I'd never seen one, until this one."

Sutton is set to be executed at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 20.