Inmate Whose Execution Was Halted Because of Vein Issue Dies 4 Years Later From Cancer

Doyle Lee Hamm died from natural causes as a result of lymphatic cancer. Hamm was convicted in the 1987 murder of hotel clerk Patrick Cunningham. He confessed to police after two accomplices testified against him in exchange for lesser sentences. He was subsequently sentenced to death.

However, in February 2018, his execution went awry when staff members punctured his legs and groin for two and a half hours in an attempt to find a suitable vein for the injection. His longtime lawyer, Bernard Harcourt, said that Hamm had inflated lymph nodes and that any attempt to puncture them could be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

"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 explained.

When they were unable to successfully puncture him, his execution was canceled. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, a settlement was reached between him and the state to not attempt a second execution.

"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 Harcourt. "He will be missed by his friends and family."

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

Doyle Lee Hamm
This photograph taken by his attorney, Bernard Harcourt, shows Alabama death row inmate Doyle Lee Hamm at Holman Prison in Atmore, Ala., on Feb. 25, 2018, three days after the state failed in a bid to execute the man. Hamm died of natural causes on Nov. 28, 2021, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections. Bernard Harcourt via AP

He remained on death row at Holman Prison because of his capital conviction.

The Holman warden called Hamm's brother to inform him of the prisoner's death Sunday morning, Harcourt said.

Hamm apparently died of complications from a terminal illness and no foul play was suspected, the Department of Corrections said in a statement. An autopsy will determine an exact cause of death, the department said.

Diagnosed in 2014 with B-cell lymphoma, Hamm argued before the scheduled execution that the blood cancer had progressed while the state argued that he was in remission.

In the days before his execution was scheduled, state prison officials told courts they planned to connect the intravenous line below Hamm's knee after a medical review ordered by a federal judge found that he had no easily usable veins in his upper extremities. The state had expressed confidence that Hamm had usable veins, but workers couldn't find a suitable one on the day of the scheduled lethal injection.

The U.S. Supreme Court had allowed the execution to proceed, but the state finally called it off because of the problem.

Lethal Injection
Doyle Lee Hamm passed away at the age of 64 in prison. He was set to be executed by lethal injection, but his veins weren't usable because of his terminal illness. Getty Images