Talk about a second chance...
Capital punishment, often fiercely debated as the death penalty, is currently legal in 31 states. With thousands of Americans currently living on death row—a sort of purgatory that can often take more than ten, if not over 20 years—many people feel safer with “the worst among us” locked behind bars awaiting their final judgement, but others remain unsure whether death is such a strong deterrent.
After a planned execution went horribly wrong in Alabama last week, people may feel even less inclined to trust the death penalty. Now the man who survived his own execution is speaking out.
Convicted of the 1987 murder of motel worker Patrick Cunningham, Doyle Lee Hamm, now 61 years old, has spent over 30 years on death row. Shortly before robbing and murdering Cunningham, Doyle Hamm murdered another victim. Heinous crimes to be sure, many—especially the victims’ children and families—felt that justice was served when Hamm was sentenced. But over the course of these past three decades, the circumstances have changed such that protestors demanded Hamm be given a stay and allowed instead to serve out the remainder of his life in prison.
You see, Hamm suffers from lymphatic cancer.
After so many years on death row, protestors—from strangers to Hamm’s family to the United Nations—argued that Hamm’s illness and condition doomed his execution from the start.
Given Hamm’s history of disease and drug use, many of his veins were found unsuitable for lethal injection. The execution could only go through if the veins used were in his legs, feet, or “lower extremities.” According to the order from U.S. Chief District Judge Karon O. Bowdre: “Mr. Hamm has accessible peripheral veins in his lower extremities, and that the peripheral veins in his upper extremities, while accessible, would be more difficult to access and would require a more advanced practitioner using ultrasound guidance.”
Aware of the difficulties his client faced, Hamm’s lawyer, Bernard Harcourt, argued that this posed the risk of a “cruel and unnecessarily painful execution,” which medical experts said the state of Alabama was “not equipped” to attempt.
A Second Chance
Needless to say, the execution did not go as planned. “This was a bit of butchery that can only be described as torture,” Hamm’s lawyer later said of the incident.
Scheduled for 6 PM on Thursday, February 22, Hamm’s execution became a gruesome ordeal. 30 years in prison may have felt quick compared to the 5-plus hours that the 61-year-old was subjected to dozens of failed needle pricks. The intravenous team probed his feet, legs, and groin—both puncturing his bladder and penetrating his femoral artery—until they were forced to call the procedure off at 11:30 that night, just half an hour before the midnight deadline.
Hamm walked out of the execution chamber alive, but not unscathed. Now he is showing off his gruesome state-officiated wounds as his lawyer continues to fight for a stay of execution or to allow Hamm to serve his remaining years in prison. As for his prospects of being released from Alabama’s death grip? Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn had to say of the botched execution, “I wouldn’t necessarily characterize what we had tonight as a problem.”
Look at Hamm’s pictures to decide for yourself, and then SHARE this article with a friend.