Alabama Delays Execution of Doyle Lee Hamm, Inmate Dying of Cancer

Alabama killer Doyle Lee Hamm will live another day. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a halt on his execution scheduled for February 22 night. However, officials couldn’t go ahead with his execution before the expiry of the death warrant because of Hamm’s condition. Read all about Doyle Lee Hamm’s delayed sentence here.

Motel Clerk Killer

Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, was convicted of killing Patrick Cunningham, a clerk at Cullman hotel, in January 1987. Cunningham had been shot in the head by a .38-caliber pistol. His wallet and money from the motel cash drawer were missing.

Hamm was later arrested but denied any involvement in the killing. However, court records show he admitted to the murder and robbery. His co-defendants received lesser charges for testifying against him.

He was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Thursday evening at a southwest Alabama prison.

Stay on Execution

As his execution date loomed closer, Hamm argued that his condition wouldn’t allow a humane execution. He claimed his past drug use and his cancer have badly damaged his veins. As such, the lethal injection would be unconstitutionally painful.

Hamm was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma in 2014. His attorneys said his veins had been compromised by the cancer, hepatitis C, and drug abuse. They said the damage would risk a botched attempt at a humane execution.

The state indicated that they would adjust the injection process. An appellate court said it would not stop Hamm’s scheduled execution. A medical examination had revealed he had usable veins to administer the execution drugs.

In a last minute effort to halt the execution, Hamm appealed to the Supreme Court. The Alabama AG asked the Supreme Court to reject his plea.

However, his execution was delayed while the Supreme Court considered his request. The temporary stay was issued around 6 p.m. on Thursday. Hamm was scheduled to be executed at that time.

Around 9 p.m., the U.S. Supreme Court denied his bid to halt the execution and lifted the stay. Alabama could proceed with the execution after the stay was lifted. They had to carry forward the execution before the death warrant expired at midnight.

However, prison officials said they had insufficient time to prepare the inmate. Medical staff had difficulty connecting an intravenous line to his lower extremities.

They couldn’t carry out the execution before the death warrant expired on Thursday. Hamm has been returned to a holding cell.

He is scheduled for another medical examination on Friday morning. The state’s Supreme Court will have to set another date for a second attempt.

Precedents for Commuted Death Sentence

In May 2017, Alabama executed Tommy Arthur for a 1982 murder for hire 10 minutes before midnight. The execution was delayed for hours by appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hamm’s execution is delayed until the court decides another date. His sentence has not been commuted yet.

It’s too soon to say if he’ll be as lucky as Thomas Whitaker. The 38-year-old was convicted of plotting his family’s murders. He killed his mother and brother while his father survived.

His father requested for Whitaker’s clemency, which The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles upheld. Whitaker’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Florida, however, went ahead with the execution of  Eric Branch, 47, for the 1993 rape and murder of University of West Florida student Susan Morris. His was the fourth execution in the U.S. in 2018.


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