Man convicted of murder in Blount County dies on death row

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A man convicted of murder in Blount County has died of apparent natural causes after more than 25 years on death row.

James Dellinger, 71. Photo: Tennessee Dept. of Correction

Death row inmate James Dellinger, 71, died at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville just before noon Monday.

A Tennessee Department of Correction release said his death appeared to be of natural causes but the exact cause of death is pending official review by the medical examiner.

Dellinger was sentenced to death in 1996 after his First Degree Murder conviction in Blount County.

He and his nephew, Gary Wayne Sutton, were convicted of the 1992 murders of siblings Tommy Griffin and Connie Branam.

Sutton, 57, remains on death row.

Tennessee has not conducted an execution since Feb. 20, 2020. An independent review recently found that the state failed to comply with its own lethal injection protocol multiple times since 2018.

Gov. Bill Lee said that the Tennessee Supreme Court is likely to wait until changes to the process are finalized before scheduling future executions. It’s not known when those changes will be completed.

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