Attorney: Inmate endured ‘torture’ before execution halted in Alabama over IV line issues

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Doyle Lee Hamm

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A lawyer for an Alabama inmate whose lethal injection was halted after staffers could not connect an intravenous line argued Monday that his client should not face a second date in the death chamber.

Attempting to execute Doyle Lee Hamm a second time would violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, attorney Bernard Harcourt wrote in state and federal court filings.

Hamm has been on death row nearly half his life. He was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1987 killing of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham. Two accomplices testified against him in exchange for reduced sentences, Harcourt said.

Hamm had been scheduled to be executed Feb. 22 for the 1987 slaying of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham. The state called off the execution shortly after 11 p.m. because of problems getting the intravenous line connected. Hamm had damaged veins because of lymphoma, hepatitis and past drug use, his lawyer said.

A doctor hired by Hamm’s legal team wrote in a report included with the court filing that Hamm had 11 puncture sites; bled heavily from his groin; and sustained injuries including a possible punctured bladder during the attempts to connect the line. The doctor said that Hamm had to be carried back to his cell by correctional officers after the execution was called off for the night. Photos submitted to the court showed Hamm’s feet were bruised and blackened, presumably from pooling blood. They also showed bruising from what the doctor said was a groin injury.

The filing included Hamm’s recounting of the event to the physician, Dr. Mark Heath. Hamm indicated he had begun bleeding heavily from his groin, enough to soak through a pad or drape, during the attempt to connect the line, Heath wrote. He added that Hamm said a man who had been on a cellphone watching the attempts announced to the team that the execution was over.

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the execution was stopped because of a “time issue” and concerns of getting the line connected before the midnight deadline.

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