Harold Nichols, Tennessee


Updated: Monday, August 3, 2020

Harold Wayne Nichols was scheduled to be executed at 7:10 pm local time on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institute near Nashville, Tennessee.  He has been granted a temporary reprieve by Governor Bill Lee. Fifty-nine-year-old Harold is convicted of raping and murdering 21-year-old Karen Pulley, on September 30, 1988, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Harold has spent the last 30 years on death row in Tennessee.

Harold’s mother died from cancer when he was 10, leading to him being placed in an orphanage by his father. Harold was almost adopted, when he was instead returned to his father, with whom he did not have a good or close relationship. Harold had joined the army and received and honorable discharge in 1984. Prior to his arrest, Harold worked at a local pizza shop, where he had worked up to being assistant manager, and worked the night shifts, while also being responsible for paperwork. Harold had the reputation as a dependable employee. Harold also had a previous conviction for assault with the intent to commit rape.

On September 30, 1988, Harold Nichols broke into a home in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and discovered Karen Pully, home alone, in an upstairs bedroom. Nichols raped her and beat her over the head with a board he found in the home. Karen was later discovered alive by one of her roommates, and taken the hospital, where she died the following day.


Months later, on January 5, 1989, Nichols was arrested after they received information that he had committed several rapes in the area around Chattanooga. The following day, upon questioning by the police, Nichols confessed to several rapes in December 1988 and January 1989. At a later time, Nichols also confessed to the rape and murder of Karen, providing a video taped statement, giving details of Karen’s home and facts about the rape and murder.


Nichols was first charged and convicted on various charges relating to four different rapes. He then pled guilty to Karen’s rape and murder. Prosecutors sought the death penalty due, in part, to his prior convictions. During sentencing, Nichols wife, Joanne, testified that she had told an investigating officer that Nichols confessed to the murder, claiming it was an accident. Nichols also testified during his sentencing hearing that he had a “strange, energized feeling” when he committed acts of violence, and that he had never spoken of it to anyone or sought help. Nichols claimed he was unable to resist the feeling and would have continued his violent behavior if he had not been arrested. Nichols was sentenced to death.


The Tennessee Supreme Court has denied two requests to halt Nichol’s execution due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  Nichols has filed a federal lawsuit against the Tennessee Supreme Court, for failing to grant him a stay of execution, but granting a stay to another inmate whose execution was scheduled for a later date.  Attorneys for Nichols argue that they have not been able to prepare a clemency petition for the governor due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.  Additionally, Nichols has been unable to sufficiently meet with friends, family, lawyers, and his spiritual advisor during the past few months.  In their latest refusal to halt the execution, the Tennessee Supreme Court noted that travel restrictions and limitations on court proceedings have been lifted in the state.  The court also noted that there are marked differences in Nichols' case, and the case of the inmate who is scheduled to be executed at a later date and has been granted stay execution.


Governor Bill Lee has announced that he has granted a temporary reprieve to death row inmate Harold Nichols.  The governor's reprieve will last until December 31, 2020, "due to the challenges and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a statement issued by the governor. 


Pray for the family of Karen Pulley, and for the other victims hurt by Harold’s actions. Pray for the family of Harold. Pray that if Harold is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Pray that Harold may come to find peace through a personal relationship with the Lord, if he has not already.



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