When the execution of Doyle Lee Hamm was called off last week, the Alabama Department of Corrections said it was because it didn't have time to prepare the inmate before a midnight death warrant expired. "I wouldn't necessarily characterize what we had tonight as a problem," claimed prison commissioner Jeff Dunn early Friday, saying it had only been a "time issue." A lawyer for the 61-year-old inmate, however, says the state is actually talking about a "gory, botched execution" that made a bloody mess of the death chamber and the inmate himself, Reuters reports. "They gave up when they could not find a vein," says Columbia Law School professor Bernard Harcourt. He says two sets of medical personnel worked on Hamm at the same time, trying to find a usable vein in his legs or groin.
The lawyer says an IV team almost certainly hit Hamm's bladder, and probably "hit his femoral artery as well, because suddenly there was a lot of blood gushing out," NBC News reports. "There were multiple puncture wounds on the ankles, calf, and right groin area, around a dozen." In recent court filings, Harcourt argued that terminal cancer, hepatitis, and prior drug use would make it difficult and painful to execute Hamm, who was sentenced to die for killing a motel clerk during a 1987 robbery, the AP reports. He says he warned that it would be "tortuous and bloody and they wouldn't succeed." The incident is being reviewed by a federal court and a judge has ordered the state to preserve evidence, including Hamm's bloodied clothes. Alabama hasn't said whether it will seek a new execution date. (Read more execution stories.)