Inmate scheduled to die claims risk for “botched” execution

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama on Thursday is set to execute an inmate who argues there is an increased risk of a botched execution because of damage to his veins from lymphoma and other illnesses.

Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Thursday evening at a southwest Alabama prison.

Hamm was convicted in the 1987 killing of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham. Cunningham was shot once in the head while working an overnight shift at a Cullman motel. Police said $410 was taken during the robbery.

Hamm gave police a confession and he was convicted after two accomplices testified against him in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to lesser offenses, according to court documents.

The state of Hamm’s health, and veins, were the subject of court filings as his attorney sought to stop the execution and the state argued it should proceed.

Hamm was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma in 2014. His attorney argued there was evidence that the blood cancer had progressed, while the state contended he was in remission.

His attorney urged the courts to block the execution, citing damage to Hamm’s veins from cancer, hepatitis C and former drug use and the state’s plans to adjust the lethal injection process. After a medical review ordered by a federal judge found that Hamm had no easily useable veins in his upper extremities, the state told courts last week that it will connect the line to useable veins in his hips, legs or feet.

Bernard Harcourt, Hamm’s attorney, wrote in a filing to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the state previously denied Hamm had venous access problems and the “rush to settle on this creative and novel protocol – simply as a means to execute Doyle Hamm as quickly and cheaply as possible – shows a deliberate indifference to his well-being that violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.”

The Alabama attorney general’s office argued that the execution should proceed. State lawyers said Hamm’s lymphoma has been in remission since 2016 and dismissed his claims of elevated pain risk as “hyperbole.”

The prison warden, responding to a request from the 11th Circuit for additional information, submitted an affidavit saying the state was capable of administering the intravenous line though Hamm’s veins in his lower extremities.

“It has been more than thirty years since Hamm committed his capital murder. Hamm’s conviction is valid and a competent state court with jurisdiction over his case set his execution date according to Alabama law,” state lawyers wrote.

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