Lawyers seek information on aborted Alabama execution

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Execution team members jabbed an inmate repeatedly in the lower legs, ankles and groin in effort to find a usable vein before the state called off the lethal injection, according to a court filing by the inmate’s lawyer.

Lawyer Bernard Harcourt said he is seeking more information about what happened during the attempted execution of his client, 61-year-old Doyle Lee Hamm, on Thursday night.

US District Judge Karon Bowdre on Friday ordered a medical examination of Hamm and directed the state to maintain material related to the attempt.

Hamm, who has battled lymphoma, was to be executed on Thursday for the 1987 slaying of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham.

However, prison officials announced at around 11.30pm that they were halting the execution because medical staff did not think they could obtain “the appropriate venous access” before a midnight deadline.

The announcement came about two-and-a-half hours after the US Supreme Court cleared the execution to proceed.

The state prison commissioner said the execution was delayed because of a “time issue”.

“I wouldn’t necessarily characterise what we had tonight as a problem. … The only indication I have is that in their medical judgment it was more of a time issue given the late hour,” Commissioner Jeff Dunn said early on Friday.

Mr Harcourt said the execution was botched and that he had argued in court filings since July that lethal injection would be difficult and painful because Hamm’s veins have been severely compromised by lymphoma, hepatitis and prior drug use.

Two execution team members, working on each side of Hamm’s body, tried multiple times to insert the intravenous line on his left and right legs and ankles, and later turned him over and slapped the back of his legs to try to get a vein, Mr Harcourt said.

They then tried unsuccessfully to connect the line through his groin, he said.

“He’s in great pain from yesterday evening, physically, from all of the attempts to access his veins in his lower extremities and in his groin,” Mr Harcourt said.

Alabama carries out executions by lethal injection unless an inmate requests the electric chair.

Hamm was convicted in the 1987 killing of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham.

Mr Cunningham was shot once in the head while working an overnight shift at a Cullman motel.

Police said 410 dollars (£295) 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 offences, according to court documents.

Executions were also scheduled to take place Thursday in Texas and Florida.

In Florida, Eric Scott Branch, 47, was pronounced dead at 7.05pm on Thursday after a lethal injection at Florida State Prison. Branch was convicted of the rape and fatal beating of University of West Florida student Susan Morris, 21.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott accepted the recommendation of the state’s parole board and granted clemency for Thomas “Bart” Whitaker, on death row for masterminding the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their suburban Houston home in 2003.

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