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.
Inmate Doyle Lee Hamm’s scheduled execution was halted on Thursday night as the prison medical staff did not have enough time to prepare him before the death warrant expires. Earlier on Thursday, the Supreme Court greenlighted the capital punishment, but before midnight, Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said it was impossible to have “the appropriate venous access.”
The 61-year-old man suffers from hepatitis C after years of intravenous drug use and has B-cell lymphoma, which is progressing according to his attorney, Bernard Harcourt, who tried to stop the lethal injection. Harcourt argues that the injection would be “a botched, painful, and bloody execution” as Hamm’s veins are severely compromised.
After 2 1/2 hours waiting outside the execution chamber, ADOC cancels the execution. They probably could not find a vein, as we had insisted since July. Unconscionable. Simply unconscionable. Now at gas station with Doyle‘s brother, Danny, where they dropped us off. Unimaginable! pic.twitter.com/qg6gyMfhF4
— Bernard E. Harcourt (@BernardHarcourt) February 23, 2018
“They probably could not find a vein, as we had insisted since July. Unconscionable. Simply unconscionable,” Harcourt tweeted. He added that he had been waiting outside the execution room for more than two hours while the prison staff might have been trying in vain attempt to find a proper place to insert the needle.
Earlier, the inmate was discovered to have no usable veins in his upper extremities, forcing prison officials to attempt to put an intravenous line to a vein in his hips, legs, or feet.
The state argues that Hamm’s disease is in remission and that the procedure can be carried out. State Attorney General Steve Marshall says that the execution will not be stopped.
“Tomorrow I will not request that Doyle Hamm’s execution be stopped, but instead I will ask that justice be served.”
—Attorney General Steve Marshall, Message on the Execution of the Doyle Hamm pic.twitter.com/LuLx3YXopr
— AG Steve Marshall (@AGSteveMarshall) February 21, 2018
Hamm has been on Alabama’s death row since 1987 for the murder of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham in a robbery in which $410 was taken.
‘Murderers!’ Florida inmate screams during execution
On Thursday, two other southern states, Florida and Texas, planned to execute inmates. Texas called off the execution of Thomas Whitaker, 38, less than an hour before he was set to be put to death. His sentence was lowered to life without parole. The man was convicted in 2003 for the murders of his mother and brother.
In Florida, the execution proceeded, with death row inmate Eric Scott Branch pronounced dead at 7:05pm Thursday. The man screamed as he received the fatal injection, and reportedly yelled “murderers!” three times, thrashing on a gurney before going silent.
Beforehand, 47-year-old Branch told the prison staff that he wanted Florida Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to carry out the execution instead of them.
“Let them come down here and do it,” the inmate said. “I’ve learned that you’re good people and this is not what you should be doing.”
Branch, found guilty of the 1993 rape and murder of a college student, has long fought against his sentence as it contradicts the current laws. Branch was sentenced under the state’s old capital punishment system which did not require a unanimous jury verdict. The system was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 2016.
Branch appealed for a new sentencing hearing because there was a 10-2 jury vote in his 1994 trial. The appeal was denied as the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the new system of sentencing did not apply to inmates sentenced to death before 2002, according to AP.