Doyle Lee Hamm – one of the few death row prisoners to enter an execution chamber and leave it alive – has died of natural causes, three years later.
Hamm spent 30 years on death row after the state of Alabama convicted him of the robbery and murder of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham in 1987. Hamm had been an intravenous drug user, and had recently been diagnosed with lymphatic cancer and basal cell carcinoma when he was taken into the chamber on February 22, 2018, when the execution via lethal injection was attempted.
“The IV execution team inserted needles multiple times on his left and right legs and ankles, each time forcing the needles into his lower extremities. At one point, the IV execution team turned Doyle Hamm over onto his stomach on the gurney, slapping the back of his legs to try to generate a vein,” Hamm’s lawyer Bernard E Harcourt said in a statement shortly after the attempt. After attempting to insert a catheter into his groin several times, causing "severe bleeding and pain", they finally aborted the execution.
“The IV personnel almost certainly punctured Doyle’s bladder, because he was urinating blood for the next day," Harcourt added. "They may have hit his femoral artery as well, because suddenly there was a lot of blood gushing out."
Treatment for his cancer, according to his legal team, had compromised his veins prior to the botched execution. Since 2017 they had argued that lethal injection would, therefore, for Hamm, constitute a cruel and unusual punishment, causing him "cruel and needless pain". Inspections of his veins on behalf of Hamm's legal team found no accessible veins on his arms and legs, bar one on his hand that had a high chance of rupturing.
“This went beyond ghoulish justice and cruel and unusual punishment,” Harcourt said in a statement. “It was torture.”
Shortly after the execution attempt, Hamm's lawyers reached an agreement with the state of Alabama which would prevent any further execution attempts, though he remained imprisoned on death row. On Sunday morning, the warden at Holman Prison called Hamm's brother to inform him of his death, by natural causes.
“Doyle will be remembered for his generous and forgiving spirit and his ability to always stay positive even in the face of the most dire adversities," said a statement from Hamm's legal team. "He will be missed by his friends and family."
Though no foul play is suspected, an autopsy will be carried out to determine the exact cause of death, the Alabama Department of Corrections said.