Montgomery, Alabama - Alabama stood ready Thursday to execute an inmate who argued there is an increased risk of a botched execution because of damage to his veins from lymphoma and other illnesses. The US Supreme Court temporarily delayed the execution while it considered a request to block it.
Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, was scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. The court's order came down minutes before the lethal injection was to get underway at a southwest Alabama prison.
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.
His attorney said Hamm's veins had been severely compromised from cancer, hepatitis C and former drug use and there was a significant risk the injection of large quantities of lethal drugs would blow out his vein during the execution.
Bernard Harcourt, Hamm's attorney, wrote that Hamm's health problems increase the "chances of a botched, painful, and bloody execution."
Hamm was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma in 2014. His attorney argued there was evidence that 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 to a vein in his hips, legs or feet after a medical review ordered by a federal judge found that Hamm had no easily usable veins in his upper extremities.
The Alabama attorney general's office argued that the execution should proceed on Thursday evening.
"It has been established that he has sufficiently large, unobstructed veins for a lethal injection," state attorneys wrote in a response filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Executions were also scheduled to take place Thursday in Texas and Florida.