Published: Sun, February 25, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Alabama postpones execution of inmate with damaged veins

Alabama postpones execution of inmate with damaged veins

In Alabama, Doyle Lee Hamm was sentenced to die Thursday evening for the 1987 death of a motel clerk during a robbery.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted the stay before the 6 p.m. execution, then lifted that stay at 9 p.m., ruling that the state could proceed.

Harcourt said the execution was botched and that he had argued in court filings since July that lethal injection would be hard and painful because Hamm's veins have been severely compromised by lymphoma, hepatitis and prior drug use. The state in court filings had expressed confidence that Hamm had usable veins.

The state prison commissioner said the execution was delayed because of a "time issue".

Hamm is scheduled to be executed Thursday for the 1987 slaying of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham. But Hamm fought his death sentence, arguing there was a risk of a botched execution because of damage to his veins due to lymphoma and other illnesses.

"I wouldn't necessarily characterize what we had tonight as a problem".

Dunn did not specify what exactly the problem was and what medical personnel had been doing for more than two hours between when the stay was lifted and when medical personnel advised officials on the situation.

Bernard Harcourt, a Columbia University law professor, who represents Hamm, said there was a chance that the lethal injection could lead to a bungled execution, as his client's lymphatic cancer has caused abnormal-sized lymph nodes throughout the body.

Alabama prison officials have told the courts that they plan to connect the intravenous line to usable veins in Hamm's lower extremities.

Alabama has postponed the execution of a cancer-hit inmate who also suffers from hepatitis C and whose veins are too badly damaged for a lethal injection - one of three men scheduled to be executed on the same day in the US.

Executions were also scheduled Thursday in Texas and Florida, but the Texas inmate was given clemency. Dunn said he didn't know how long the medical team attempted to connect the line.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall rejected a bid to stop the execution on Wednesday, emphasizing in a Facebook video that Hamm had committed a "heinous act" when he killed Cunningham, a husband and father. "Mr. Whitaker's father insists that he would be victimized again if the state put to death his last remaining immediate family member", Abbott said in a proclamation issued Thursday evening. But, the state argued that it should proceed with the execution.

The Alabama Senate voted 29-0 for the bill that permits execution by nitrogen hypoxia if lethal injection drugs are unavailable or are ruled unconstitutional. In 2016, it took more than an hour to prepare a 72-year-old inmate when staff were unable to insert an IV in one arm and ended up connecting to a vein in his groin. "Tomorrow I will not request that Doyle Hamm's execution be stopped, but instead I will ask that justice be served", he said in the video. Prosecutors said Cunningham was shot once in the head while working an overnight shift in which $410 was taken. 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 governor's office said Eric Scott Branch, 47, was pronounced dead at 7.05pm on Thursday after receiving a lethal injection at Florida State Prison.

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