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Alabama death row inmate who survived botched execution dies from cancer

Alabama death row inmate who survived botched execution dies from cancer
Doyle Lee Hamm, sentenced for murder on Dec. 1, 1987, died on Sunday from lymphatic cancer after surviving botched execution in 2018. File Photo courtesy of Alabama Department of Corrections.

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Alabama death row inmate Doyle Lee Hamm, who survived a botched execution for a 1987 murder a few years ago, has died from cancer.

Hamm died on Sunday at age 64, from lymphatic cancer, according to his attorney, Bernard Harcourt, a Columbia University political science and law professor, the Montgomery Adviser reported.

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The death row inmate was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1987 murder of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham.

The Supreme Court allowed his execution to go forward on February 22, 2018, despite arguments that lymphoma and past drug use caused too much damage to his veins to provide a suitable vein for the lethal injection process. A corrections official called off the execution after Hamm began bleeding on the gurney. He was on the gurney for over two hours as staff punctured his legs and groin in unsuccessful attempts to find an access point for the drugs.

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Hamm's attorneys had argued that the lethal injection was a potential violation of the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.

Hamm likely sustained internal damage at the time, Al.com reported, and the state may have punctured his bladder, an artery, or both, while preparing him for execution, Harcourt said.

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"They probably could not find a vein, as we had insisted since July, " Harcourt tweeted after the botched execution. "Unconscionable. Simply unconscionable."

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Harcourt told the Montgomery Advertiser Monday that in addition to cancer treatment, Hamm had a tumor removed from behind his left eye.

"He was very fragile from the operation and the cancer treatments in 2017, when the state decided they needed to execute him, rather than let him die from cancer," Harcourt said.

The Alabama attorney general's office argued in court filings that Hamm's cancer was in remission, and said health care workers testified they were able to draw blood from Hamm.

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In March 2018, Hamm and the state of Alabama reached a confidential agreement not to execute Hamm.

Following the botched execution, the Montgomery Advertiser and other Alabama media outlets also sued the Alabama Department of Corrections to make its execution protocol public, and the DOC released a redacted copy of its protocol in 2019.

In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court also denied another Eighth Amendment claim in a separate case against execution.

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The court voted 5-4 across ideological lines that Missouri could go ahead and execute Russell Bucklew, convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend and raping her in 1996.

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Bucklew's attorneys had argued he had a rare condition that creates tumors and could cause him to suffocate on his own blood.

Justice Neil Gorsuch said in the majority opinion the Eighth Amendment protection "does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death."

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