Alabama can't find vein to execute inmate


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The state of Alabama must seek a new execution date for a condemned inmate if it still wants to execute him following an unexpected postponement.

Prison officials halted preparations for Doyle Lee Hamm’s lethal injection late Thursday because medical staff said they couldn’t find a suitable vein before the execution warrant expired.

The prisoner has argued in court that years of drug use and illness left his veins unusable for authorities to kill him by lethal injection.

The delay means the state attorney general’s office must ask the Alabama Supreme Court for a new execution date if it still intends to execute Hamm.

The attorney general’s office didn’t immediately respond to a message about its plans on Friday.

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1:50 a.m.

Alabama on Thursday halted the execution of an inmate who had argued that his veins were too damaged for lethal injection, because medical staff did not think they could connect the intravenous line by the time the death warrant expired at midnight.

Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the prison system halted Doyle Lee Hamm’s execution around 11:30 p.m. “out of an abundance of caution” after medical staff said they did not think they could obtain “the appropriate venous access” before midnight.

“It was a time issue,” Dunn said. “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.”

Bernard Harcourt, a law school professor representing Hamm, said the state should be “ashamed.”

“This is exactly what I have been saying since July. Since July, I have been telling the state of Alabama that Doyle Lee Hamm does not have adequate veins for a lethal injection,” Harcourt said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled at 9 p.m. Thursday that Hamm’s execution could proceed. Dunn said he was informed after 11 p.m. about concerns that the preparations could not be completed by midnight. Dunn said he did not know how long the medical team attempted to connect the line.

Hamm was scheduled to be executed for the 1987 slaying of a motel clerk. He was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma in 2014. Harcourt said there was evidence the blood cancer had progressed, while the state contended he was in remission.

State prison officials told courts last week that they intended to connect the line below Hamm’s knee after a medical review ordered by a federal judge found that he had no easily usable veins in his upper extremities. The state in court filings had expressed confidence that Hamm had usable veins.

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.

Executions were also scheduled to take place Thursday in Texas and Florida.

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