Execution to proceed for Alabama inmate claiming he is at risk for ‘botched’ execution

Doyle Lee Hamm (Photo: ADOC)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama prepared to execute an inmate Thursday evening for the 1987 killing of a motel clerk after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his last-minute bid to halt the execution because of his health problems.

Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, was to be executed by lethal injection at a southwest Alabama prison. The court ruled about 9 p.m. that the execution could proceed, after delaying it for three hours to consider the final appeals.

Hamm was convicted in the 1987 killing of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham. Cunningham was shot once in the head while working an overnight shift at a Cullman motel. Police said $410 was taken during the robbery. 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.

Hamm’s attorney argued that the inmate’s veins had been severely compromised from cancer, hepatitis C and former drug use and there was a significant risk the injection of large quantities of lethal drugs would blow out his vein during the execution.

Bernard Harcourt, Hamm’s attorney, wrote that Hamm’s health problems increase the “chances of a botched, painful, and bloody execution.”

Hamm was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma in 2014. His attorney argued there was evidence that the blood cancer had progressed, while the state contended he was in remission.

State prison officials told courts last week that they intended to connect the line to a vein in his hips, legs or feet after a medical review ordered by a federal judge found that Hamm had no easily usable veins in his upper extremities.

The Alabama attorney general’s office argued that the execution should proceed on Thursday evening.

“It has been established that he has sufficiently large, unobstructed veins for a lethal injection,” state attorneys wrote in a response filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the Supreme Court denied Hamm’s request for a stay, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she dissented from the decision.

Executions were also scheduled to take place Thursday in Texas and Florida.

In Florida, Eric Scott Branch , 47, was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. Thursday after a lethal injection at Florida State Prison. Branch was convicted of the rape and fatal beating of University of West Florida student Susan Morris, 21, whose naked body was found buried in a shallow grave near a nature trail.

Branch was sentenced under Florida’s old capital punishment system, which was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s new system of sentencing does not apply to inmates sentenced to death before 2002.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott accepted the recommendation of the state’s parole board and granted clemency for Thomas “Bart” Whitaker , on death row for masterminding the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their suburban Houston home in 2003. Whitaker’s father, Kent, says he forgives his son, and the state parole board recommended that Abbott commute the sentence to life in prison.