An Alabama killer scheduled to be executed Thursday claims his terminal cancer and past drug use have caused too much damage to his veins and will make the lethal injection unconstitutionally painful.
Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, is scheduled to be put to death for the 1987 slaying of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham in Cullman. Prosecutors said Cunningham was shot in the head while working an overnight shift during a robbery in which $ 410 was taken.
Bernard Harcourt, a Columbia University law professor who represents Hamm, claims there is a likelihood that an injection could lead to a bungled execution. Hamm was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 2014, and has abnormal-sized lymph nodes throughout his body.
“We’ve passed the point of ghoulish justice,” Harcourt told the Daily News on Thursday. “We are at the point of human sacrifice.”
The state says it will adjust its injection process by connecting an intravenous line to Hamm’s legs or feet.
“Not only is it different, it’s unprecedented, and it’s never been done in Alabama,” Harcourt tells The News. “It does not protect him from a tortuous death.”
The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Alabama asked the state of Alabama, in what Harcourt calls an “unprecedented” move, to make sure an “advanced level practitioner” and ultrasound technology are available and used at the execution.
The state of Alabama responded to the 11th Circuit by saying a doctor would be present during the execution. A doctor is always “present” to pronounce death, according to Harcourt, but never in the chamber during the execution.
“The warden told them, ‘don’t worry guys, we got this,'” said Harcourt, who grew up in New York City.
Harcourt believes the state’s response is a slap in the face of the 11th Circuit. He is waiting to hear back from the appeals court, but is prepared to make a bid to the U.S. Supreme Court later Thursday, if necessary. The execution is slated for 6 p.m.
The International Commission Against the Death Penalty and the United Nations Special Rapporteurs also say the execution would be equivalent to torture.
“We call on you, noting (Hamm’s) long imprisonment facing the death penalty and his extremely frail condition following his cancer, to allow Mr. Hamm to serve the rest of his life in prison,” reads a letter from the ICDP, according to AL.com.
“We believe that carrying out Mr. Hamm’s execution, given his serious medical condition, is unconscionable and represents a serious erosion of your state’s proud tradition of compassion and of respecting and protecting human dignity.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall rejected a bid to stop the execution on Wednesday, emphasizing in a Facebook video that Hamm had committed a “heinous act” when he killed Cunningham, a husband and father.
“Doyle Hamm received due process and more,” Marshall said.
The state also claims that Hamm is in remission, according to Vice News.
Hamm is one of three death row inmates scheduled to be executed in three different states on Thursday.
With News Wire Services