Doyle Lee Hamm’s botched execution attempt

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A federal judge told Alabama prison officials on Tuesday to preserve all evidence related to last week’s botched execution of Doyle Lee Hamm, CNN reported. Chief U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre also ordered the corrections department to allow Hamm a full medical exam.

The two-and-a-half hour ordeal last Thursday night was so botched it left Hamm “bruised, punctured, and limping from the attempted execution,” his attorney, Bernard Harcourt, wrote.

What makes this grotesque situation even worse is that Harcourt predicted this would happen when the Alabama Supreme Court denied his application for a stay in December. (The U.S. Supreme Court also denied a stay just a few hours before the execution, with Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Breyer dissenting.)

As we reported in the January Focus, Doyle Lee Hamm has been on Alabama’s death row for 30 years. He is 60 years old, and is terminally ill with cranial and lymphatic cancer, which he has been battling for almost four years. Nevertheless, after the Alabama Supreme Court signed Hamm’s death warrant in December, Harcourt wrote an op-ed in the New York Times laying out the details of Hamm’s medical condition, explaining that in February 2014, doctors discovered “a large malignant tumor behind his left eye, filling the socket where the nerves from his brain went into his eye. The doctors found B-cell lymphoma, a type of blood cancer of the lymph nodes, with a large mass protruding through the holes of his skull. They also discovered ‘numerous abnormal lymph nodes’ in the abdomen, lungs and chest.” He went on to explain that because of Hamm’s medical condition, the state’s method of execution was unlikely to work, and the net result would be a botched execution at best, and an excruciating, horrific murder at worst. Harcourt referred to the opinion of Dr. Mark Heath, a Columbia University Medical Center anesthesiologist who examined Hamm to determine whether his peripheral veins could be injected with the state’s lethal drug cocktail. Heath concluded they could not, and that his “lymphatic cancer was likely to interfere with any attempt to utilize his central veins.”

Harcourt quoted Heath as saying that the probability of corrections officials being unable to inject the drugs properly could “cause Hamm to become paralyzed and consciously suffocate” and suffer “an agonizing death.”

And while Hamm survived his two-plus hours of torture, Harcourt says the execution team “almost certainly punctured Doyle’s bladder, because he was urinating blood for the next day. They may have hit his femoral artery as well, because suddenly there was a lot of blood gushing out. There were multiple puncture wounds on the ankles, calf, and right groin area, around a dozen. They were grinding a needle in his shin area for many minutes, painfully. He seems to have six puncture marks in his right groin, and large bruising and swelling in the groin. He has pain going from the lower abdomen to the upper thigh. He is limping badly now and terribly sore. During the execution, Doyle was lying there praying and hoping that they would succeed because of the pain, and collapsed when they took him off the gurney.

“This went beyond ghoulish justice and cruel and unusual punishment,” he wrote.

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