Breaking News Emails
An Alabama execution team left a death-row inmate with more than a dozen puncture marks in his legs and groin and may have penetrated his bladder and femoral artery before the lethal injection was called off, the prisoner's attorney said Sunday.
"This was clearly a botched execution that can only be accurately described as torture," attorney Bernard Harcourt said in a statement after a doctor examined his client, convicted murderer and cancer survivor Doyle Lee Hamm, in prison.
State officials did not respond to a request for comment following the examination.
Last week, they said that after the execution started late Thursday because of last-minute appeals, the team wasn't sure it could find a good vein before the death warrant's midnight expiration.
"I wouldn't necessarily characterize what we had tonight as a problem," Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn told reporters at the time.
Afterward, Harcourt went to federal court and convinced a judge to permit a doctor of his choosing to examine Hamm, who has been on death row for 30 years for the 1987 murder of a motel clerk.
The attorney said that while Hamm was strapped to the gurney, the IV team "simultaneously worked on both legs at the same time, probing his flesh and inserting needles."
"The IV personnel almost certainly punctured Doyle’s bladder, because he was urinating blood for the next day," he said. "They may have hit his femoral artery as well, 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."
During the execution, Hamm "was lying there praying and hoping that they would succeed because of the pain, and collapsed when they took him off the gurney," Harcourt said.
In addition to the puncture marks, Hamm has bruising and swelling in his groin and pain from his abdomen to upper thigh, the lawyer said. He was still limping on Sunday.
All prisoners have a constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment, with the courts deciding if a particular execution is likely to violate that.
Before Thursday, Harcourt had warned that due to Hamm's history of drug abuse and his illnesses, it would be impossible to find good veins to deliver the deadly drugs.
A judge ruled the execution could proceed as long as the IV wasn't inserted in Hamm's arms. The U.S. Supreme Court, with three justices dissenting, then declined to stop the lethal injection.
Prison officials have given few details about what went on in the death chamber before Hamm got a reprieve. Dunn told reporters Thursday that he did not think the trouble the team had finding a vein would prevent the state from killing Hamm in the future.
"The only indication I have is that in their medical judgement it was more of a time issue, given the late hour," the commissioner said.
Harcourt wanted to examine the execution chamber and the notes prison workers took during the procedure, but the judge turned him down.
The judge did, however, order the Department of Corrections to preserve the notes and any other material from the execution try, including the clothing Hamm was wearing.
Hamm is not the first inmate to survive an execution attempt because of bad veins.
Three months ago, Ohio called off the execution of Alva Campbell after the medical team tried for 30 minutes to find an access point without success.
And in 2009, another Ohio inmate, Romell Broom, was spared after the execution worked for two hours to insert a needle. In appeals, he argues a second attempt would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.