Doyle Lee Hamm: ‘botched’ aborted execution was ‘torture’

Alabama death row inmate in agony after two-and-a-half hour ordeal

Doyle Lee Hamm
Doyle Lee Hamm was convicted of killing a hotel clerk in 1987
(Image credit: Alabama Department of Corrections)

A death row prisoner was stabbed with needles for more than two-and-a-half hours during a “botched execution” that has left him in “great pain”, according to his lawyer.

Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, was scheduled to die on Thursday evening after losing a final appeal against his execution following 30 years on Alabama’s death row for the 1987 murder of a hotel clerk.

A recent battle with cancer, as well as a history of drug use, has left Hamm with severe damage to his veins, particularly in his arms. His attorney, Bernard Harcourt, argued that administering the lethal cocktail of execution drugs would cause his client a painful and inhumane death.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

However, the Supreme Court ruled that the execution could go ahead if the IV feeds used to administer the lethal cocktail were not placed in Hamm’s arms. The late decision left prison personnel little time to find a suitable vein before the expiration of the warrant at midnight on Thursday.

The execution team tried without success to insert an IV catheter into Hamm’s legs and groin as he lay strapped to a gurney.

“The IV personnel simultaneously worked on both legs at the same time, probing his flesh and inserting needles,” Harcourt wrote in a blog post.

During the ordeal, Hamm “was lying there praying and hoping that they would succeed because of the pain”, his lawyer says. The execution was finally called off at around 11.30pm.

Announcing the postponement, Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn told reporters that the difficulties in locating a suitable vein would not prevent his execution at a future date, reports news broadcaster KVOA.

“I wouldn’t necessarily characterise what we had tonight as a problem,” Dunn said.

However, a doctor who examined Hamm after the aborted execution found that he had multiple external injuries and that his bladder had “almost certainly” been perforated during the procedure, causing him to urinate blood.

“There were multiple puncture wounds on the ankles, calf, and right groin area, around a dozen,” Harcourt said. “They were grinding a needle in his shin area for many minutes, painfully.

“This was clearly a botched execution that can only be accurately described as torture.”

In recent years, “states including Oklahoma and Arizona have also conducted botched executions that raised questions about death chamber protocols”, The New York Times reports.

With the incident now subject to federal review, Hamm’s fate hangs in the balance.

Two other men whose executions were called off in recent years owing to difficulties inserting IV lines - Ohio inmates Romell Broom and Alva Campbell - have since received new execution dates.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.