Tennessee's oldest Death Row inmate dead, not executed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT/ AP) -- Tennessee's oldest death row inmate is dead after 30 years on the row, but his life didn't end in the electric chair or by lethal injection. Richard Austin, 68, apparently died of natural causes, the Tennessee Department of Corrections says.

Austin was found dead in his DeBarry Special Needs Facility cell in Nashville Saturday.

He was convicted of being an accessory before the fact to murder in Shelby County in 1978, according to A TDOC release.

Austin was found to have hired a fugitive from prison to kill undercover policeman Julian Watkins. Watkins was investigating illegal gambling operations at the Golden Cue, a Memphis establishment that Austin owned.

Austin was the first person sentenced to die under Tennessee's current death penalty law, which was enacted in 1977, and he was the longest-serving death row inmate in Tennessee.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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