By Christine Rousselle
As a death row inmate in Alabama sues the state over a botched execution last month, a Catholic advocacy group said the case emphasize inherent flaws in capital punishment itself.
“The events surrounding this execution attempt highlight the brokenness of the death penalty,” said Catholic Mobilizing Network, which works to end the death penalty. “The horrific violence that Doyle Lee Hamm experienced should serve as a poignant reminder of the need to end the death penalty once and for all.”
Doyle Lee Hamm, who was sentenced to death in 1987 after being convicted of murder and robbery, was scheduled to be executed on Feb. 22. Hamm, who is 61 years old, has spent about half of his life on death row.
Hamm is asking for his death sentenced to be vacated and to not be given another execution date. His lawyers are arguing that executing him now would be a violation of double jeopardy laws and would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
On his execution date, Hamm was strapped to a gurney for two and a half hours as prison medical officials were unable to find a suitable vein for the lethal injection. Hamm’s lawyers say they found 11 puncture wounds, including six in his groin area, following the execution attempt. The execution was halted shortly before midnight, when the death warrant was due to expire.
Hamm’s lawyer has indicated that they are looking to settle “in the near future.” Otherwise, the case would go to court in late October. It is uncertain if the settlement will include a prohibition on another execution date.
Previously, Hamm’s lawyers argued that his lymphatic cancer, as well as past intravenous drug use, had rendered his veins unusable for a lethal injection, and that attempting to do so would be “cruel and unusual punishment.” They, along with Hamm, had requested an “oral lethal injection” instead. This request was denied. Alabama uses lethal injection as its method of execution unless the electric chair is requested.
Catholic Mobilizing Network said in a statement to Catholic News Agency that there was “no justification for Alabama allowing this cruel and unnecessary execution attempt of Doyle Lee Hamm to take place,” and that the death penalty itself is broken and flawed.
Catholic Mobilizing Network’s sentiment was echoed by Griffin Hardy, communications manager for Sr. Helen Prejean, an anti-death penalty activist. Hardy described the execution attempt as completely unnecessary “barbarism,” and said that Alabama was being “reckless and inhumane” in their effort to execute a cancer patient.
“We hope that Alabama will abandon any future efforts to kill Mr. Hamm and reinstate his cancelled cancer treatments immediately,” said Hardy.
Alabama has executed 61 people since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. The most recent execution was in October 2017. There are 182 people currently on death row in Alabama.