Supreme Court allows execution of Alabama inmate to proceed

By Daniel Uria  |  Updated Feb. 22, 2018 at 11:38 PM
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Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the execution of an Alabama death row inmate to proceed Thursday night.

The court lifted a temporary stay on the execution of Doyle Lee Hamm, who was convicted of killing motel clerk Patrick Cunningham in 1987.

"This case reflects the special circumstances of trying to execute a person who has been on death row for 30 years and has cancer," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote.

He added rather than develop a "constitutional jurisprudence that focuses upon the special circumstances of the aged," he would prefer to reconsider the constitutionality of the death penalty itself.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented in lifting the stay and consideration of certiorari granted by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas, just Hamm's execution was scheduled to take place at 6 p.m.

Hamm's attorney argued the 61-year-old can't be executed by lethal injection, because lymphoma and past drug have caused too much damage to his veins.

Hamm was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, but the Alabama Attorney General's Office has argued it is now in remission and he is healthy enough to be executed.

"Hamm's claim was that he has compromised veins that prevent him from being executed by lethal injection. That claim was refuted by medical evidence," the Attorney General's office said in response to Hamm's appeal for a stay.

Last Thursday the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling by U.S. Chief District Judge Karon O. Bowdre which stated Hamm has veins in his lower extremities which could be used to carry out the execution.

"Hamm has two peripheral veins accessible for a lethal injection, and his central veins are likewise accessible for a lethal injection," the court ruled.

Hamm is one of three people scheduled for execution in the United States Thursday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott granted Thomas Whitaker clemency hours before his execution following a recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Eric Branch was executed via lethal injection at Florida State Prison at 6 p.m.

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