Doyle Lee Hamm execution: Repeated jabbing of death row inmate in attempted lethal injection amounts to torture, says lawyer

'It was a gory, botched execution. They gave up when they could not find a vein'

Tom Batchelor
Monday 26 February 2018 17:55 GMT
Doyle Lee Hamm, who is on death row in Alabama
Doyle Lee Hamm, who is on death row in Alabama (AP)

The “gory” attempt to execute a death row inmate that was halted after medical personnel failed to find a vein, despite repeatedly jabbing him in the ankles, lower legs and groin, amounts to torture, his lawyer has said.

Convicted murderer Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, who has spent more than half his life on death row, was returned to his cell after more than two hours of effort by the execution team.

Bernard Harcourt, who has represented Hamm for 28 years, claimed the “botched” execution attempt led to at least 12 puncture wounds from failed needle placements.

He said the procedure left behind a bloodied death chamber.

“It was a gory, botched execution," he said. "They gave up when they could not find a vein."

The professor at the Columbia University Law School, added: “Our case was that this would be tortuous and bloody and they wouldn’t succeed.”

Alabama Department of Corrections officials were not immediately available to respond to the accusation.

The execution has come under federal court review, with a US district judge calling for the state to preserve evidence, including the clothes Hamm was wearing.

"I wouldn’t necessarily characterise what we had tonight as a problem," Jeff Dunn, Alabama Department of Corrections commissioner, said shortly after the execution was called off.

Mr Harcourt said there were two sets of medical personnel who tried to place a line in Hamm's groin area or in an area between his knees and feet.

The inmate was examined by a doctor after the execution attempt and found to have at least 12 puncture wounds, his lawyer added.

In court filings in the days before the planned execution, Hamm's lawyers said he had terminal cancer and a history of intravenous drug use that had severely compromised his veins.

They said Alabama was rushing through a specialised execution protocol, increasing the chances that the procedure would fail.

Mr Harcourt said immediately after the botched attempt that his client was " in great pain… physically, from all of the attempts to access his veins in his lower extremities and in his groin".

The state responded that it knew what it was doing and could handle the lethal injection.

It has not indicated if it will seek a new execution date.

Additional reporting by agencies

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