Alabama Inmate Survives Execution, Dies from Cancer

by Liz Holland
Huntsville Texas USA Death Chamber. 1997. Getty Images

Four years after surviving an execution attempt, Alabama death row inmate Doyle Hamm has passed from cancer at age 64. Hamm faced a unique set of physical circumstances. The prisoner had already faced severe health issues prior to his attempted execution. As a result, executioners were unable to find a suitable vein for lethal injection despite poking Hamm for over 2 1/2 hours. Hamm’s execution came to a halt following 11 pokes and no luck finding a workable vein.

An Unfortunate Fate

Inmate Doyle Hamm faced intense physical challenges prior to his execution date. At the time of the attempt, Hamm had previously suffered from lymphoma, a lymphatic cancer. Although Hamm’s lymphoma was in remission at the time of the attempt, the effect the deadly disease had on his health was evident. Additionally, Hamm’s history of hepatitis and drug use had compromised his veins, according to his lawyers. Hamm’s lawyers argued that his extensive rocky health history compromised his veins to the point that lethal injection would cause an unconstitutional level of pain, or be impossible. 

Statements from Hamm’s lawyers met challenges. The state attorney stated in a filing, “Hamm’s unreasonable delay is particularly egregious, given the extraordinary length of time the victims of his crime have waited for justice”. A confidential agreement came to completion in 2018 despite initial pushback from the state attorney’s office. This agreement comes along after Hamm files multiple lawsuits. Ensuring Hamm will not face another execution attempt, this agreement remained in effect.

According to Hamm’s lawyer Bernard Harcourt, Hamm had been battling an “extremely aggressive lymphoma” for years. Harcourt says complications from the cancer contributed to the death of Hamm. 

Doyle Hamm Slated for Execution on a Capital Murder Charge

The murder of Patrick Cunningham is what lead to Doyle Hamm’s death sentence. As determined by his trial, Hamm stole a gun during a Mississippi robbery in the midst of a crime spree in January of 1987. Later that same day, Hamm took part in a robbery at an Alabama motel, where Cunningham was working at the front desk. After stealing $410 — $350 from the motel’s cash register, and $60 from Cunningham’s personal wallet, the nightmare continued. Cunningham was shot in the head once with a .38 caliber pistol, the same one stolen by Hamm earlier that day. Two witnesses identified Hamm as the gunman but later retracted their statements. Authorities identified these witnesses as co-defendants. 

Despite being sentenced to death for his crimes, the 2018 agreement following Hamm’s failed execution attempt transformed his punishment to a life sentence instead. 

Doyle Hamm passed away at age 64 on Sunday, after serving over 30 years in prison