Courts Clear Way for Hamm Execution

Feb 21, 2018

Alabama Death Row Unit, W.C. Holman Correctional Facility near Atmore, Ala.
Credit EJI

A federal judge has ruled that an Alabama inmate battling serious health issues does, in fact, have good enough veins to safely undergo a lethal injection.

U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre denied a request from Doyle Lee Hamm to block his execution, currently scheduled for tomorrow. Hamm and his attorney have argued that lethal injection would be unconstitutionally cruel in his case, as drug use along with lymphoma and hepatitis C have severely compromised Hamm's veins. His lawyer also argues it would be inhumane to execute someone already battling cancer.

Hamm was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2014. However, the state of Alabama contends he has been in remission since 2016.

Judge Bowdre says an independent medical review found that Hamm does have usable veins in his legs and "cannot show any medical factors that would make the Alabama lethal injection protocol, as applied to him, more likely to violate the Eighth Amendment than it would for any other inmate who would be executed following that protocol".

Hamm is scheduled to be executed tomorrow for the 1987 murder of Cullman motel clerk Patrick Cunningham.

Prosecutors said Cunningham was working the overnight shift at Anderson's Motel when he was killed in a robbery that netted $410. Cunningham had been shot once in the temple with a handgun. Prosecutors said that Hamm confessed to the murder and that two accomplices testified against him in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to lesser offenses.

Hamm's attorney, Bernard E. Harcourt, says he is appealing Bowdre's decision.