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Death row inmate dies 1 day after fellow Tennessee inmate's execution

Associated Press • Updated May 17, 2019 at 5:56 PM

NASHVILLE — A Tennessee death row inmate died in prison on Friday, less than three months before his scheduled execution and less than a day after a fellow inmate was executed.

Charles Wright, 64, was pronounced dead of natural causes at 11:57 a.m. at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Wright was convicted in the 1984 shooting death of two men in a Nashville park during a drug deal. He was sentenced to death for killing Douglas Alexander and to life in prison for killing Gerald Mitchell.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Kelley Henry had unsuccessfully sought compassionate release for Wright, saying the inmate was dying of cancer.

“He desperately wanted to one day touch the grass and eat his sister’s cooking,” Henry wrote in an emailed statement on Friday afternoon.

Henry said Wright had a “large and loving family” that is heartbroken over his loss. She also said Wright had many friends on death row who took care of him after he became ill.

They included Don Johnson, who was pronounced dead Thursday night. Henry was one of the witnesses to Johnson’s execution. She said afterward that she believed gasping noises Johnson made during the execution indicated that the 68-year-old was suffering.

Autopsies are planned for both men.

Courts have rejected challenges to Tennessee’s midazolam-based lethal injection protocols, but Henry said claims about the pain the drugs cause are unrefuted. Two Tennessee inmates last year chose to die in the electric chair instead of by lethal injection, saying they believed it offered a quicker and less painful death.

Tennessee is scheduled to execute two more inmates later this year.

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