Death row inmate who survived execution seeks to halt future attempts
Doyle Lee Hamm's attorney stated Hamm was "tortured," citing a doctor's exam of the inmate following the Feb. 22 failed execution
By Kent Faulk
Alabama Media Group, Birmingham
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — An Alabama Death Row inmate who survived a lethal injection execution attempt last month is asking a federal judge to block the state from trying a second time to kill him.
Doyle Lee Hamm's attorney stated in federal court documents filed Monday that Hamm was "tortured," citing a doctor's exam of the inmate following the Feb. 22 failed execution. That exam showed 11 puncture marks, according to the doctor's report.
"The defendants (Department of Corrections) acted deliberately in the face of numerous and fair warnings when, after months of litigation that put the defendants on notice about Doyle Hamm's medical conditions, they nonetheless attempted and failed to accomplish intravenous lethal injection, thereby subjecting Doyle Hamm to several torturous and traumatic hours in the execution chamber." Bernard E. Harcourt, professor of law and political science at Columbia University in New York and Hamm's long-time attorney, stated in the complaint.
"To attempt another execution, particularly in light of the torturous circumstances inflicted on Doyle Hamm during the first attempt, would be cruel and unusual, and thus unconstitutional," Harcourt states. To try again also would violate Hamm's rights against double jeopardy, he adds.
Harcourt states that the failed execution didn't happen by accident because they had warned the DOC and court for months that Hamm's veins were too weak for a lethal injection. A federal judge had ruled that the DOC could only use veins in Hamm's lower extremities before the execution attempt - a process the state had never tried.
Hamm, 61, who was convicted of killing Cullman hotel clerk Patrick Cunningham in January 1987, has lymphatic cancer and carcinoma and also has Hepatitis C, a history of seizures and epilepsy, multiple significant head injuries, and severely compromised veins due to years of intravenous drug use, according to court documents filed by Harcourt.
Harcourt stated in an email to AL.com that they are filing a petition to the circuit court of Cullman County based on double jeopardy and will soon file for a rehearing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The complaints included a report filed by Mark J. S. Heath, a medical doctor with a practice in anesthesiology at the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital in New York City. Heath examined Hamm on Feb. 25 at the Holman Correctional Facility where most of the state's death row inmates are held.
That exam, according to a report filed with Monday's complaint, found a total of 11 lower extremities and right groin puncture wounds. Sudden bleeding by Hamm that occurred during the procedure while Hamm was strapped to the gurney in the death chamber was consistent with arterial puncture and penetration of a ureter, the bladder, the prostate gland, or the urethra, the report states.
Since the failed execution Hamm has suffered not only physically but also emotionally, according to the federal complaint. "He has had nightmares and flashbacks in which he pictures himself lying on the gurney again, being subjected again to the torturous pain that occurred on February 22, 2018. Doyle Hamm has been traumatized and lives in fear that ADOC will subject him to another painful and botched execution," the complaint states.
The night of the scheduled execution the U.S. Supreme Court had delayed the start of the lethal injection procedure but gave the go ahead about 9 p.m. and the DOC began prepping Hamm. It was after 11:30 p.m. when word came that the execution had been called off. The death warrant expired at midnight and the state would have to ask the Alabama Supreme Court to set another date.
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said medical personnel had advised officials that there wasn't enough time to ensure that the execution could be conducted in a humane manner. However, Dunn declined to detail the exact medical factors behind the decision, and said he didn't want to characterize them as a problem.
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