Execution team members stuck an Alabama inmate about a dozen times and may have punctured his bladder in efforts to find a usable vein before the state called off the man's lethal injection last week, the prisoner's attorney said Sunday.
Attorney Bernard Harcourt attended a physical examination of his client, 61-year-old Doyle Lee Hamm, at the Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County and said in an update it was "worse than anticipated."
“This was clearly a botched execution that can only be accurately described as torture,” Harcourt wrote.
Hamm, who has battled lymphoma, was set to be executed Thursday for the 1987 killing of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham.
Prison officials announced about 11:30 p.m. Thursday they had to halt the execution because medical staff did not think they could obtain "the appropriate venous access" before a midnight deadline. The announcement came about 2 and a half hours after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the execution to proceed.
The state prison commissioner said the execution was delayed because of a "time issue" because medical staff did not think they could connect the intravenous line by the time the death warrant expired at midnight.
"I wouldn't necessarily characterize what we had tonight as a problem...The only indication I have is that in their medical judgment it was more of a time issue given the late hour," Commissioner Jeff Dunn said early Friday.
Harcourt, a Columbia University law professor, had argued in court filings since July that lethal injection would be difficult and painful because Hamm's veins have been severely compromised by lymphoma, hepatitis and prior drug use.
In a previous court filing with accompanying pictures, Harcourt wrote Hamm's health problems increase the "chances of a botched, painful, and bloody execution."
"While he was strapped down arms and legs to the gurney, the IV personnel simultaneously worked on both legs at the same time, probing his flesh and inserting needles," Harcourt said in his update Sunday. "The IV personnel almost certainly punctured Doyle’s bladder, because he was urinating blood for the next day."
Harcourt said the execution team may have also hit Hamm's femoral artery, because suddenly "there was a lot of blood gushing out."
"There were multiple puncture wounds on the ankles, calf, and right groin area, around a dozen," he said.
Harcourt argues that the lapse of more than two hours before the state halted the execution was a sign something was wrong. The past four executions in the state began about an hour after final permission was given from the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We had told all the federal courts, the governor, the governor’s general counsel, and commissioner and warden that any attempt at intravenous access was going to result in a botched execution, but everyone refused to give us the time of day,” he said in a statement. “We often talk about wrongful conviction, but the federal courts and the governor of Alabama have just invented ‘wrongful execution.’ This is an abomination and Alabama should immediately halt all lethal injection in the state.”
Records from Georgia show it typically takes that state less than 20 minutes to prepare an inmate for lethal injection, although there have been exceptions, according to the Associated Press. In 2016, it took more than an hour to prepare a 72-year-old inmate when staff were unable to insert an IV in one arm and ended up connecting to a vein in his groin.
Alabama carries out executions by lethal injection unless an inmate requests the electric chair.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.