Unvarnished Truths about the Death Penalty in the United States: Part II

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Unvarnished Truths about the Death Penalty in the United States: Part II

I should not regret a fair and full trial of the entire abolition of capital punishment.

James Madison

Unvarnished Truths about the Death Penalty in the United States: Part II

David M. Reutter’s article, published in the December 2018 issue of Prison Legal News under the title, “Alabama Prisoner in Failed Execution Attempt Will Not Face Another,” detailed the grotesque attempt by the state of Alabama to execute one of its death row prisoners. On February 22, 2018, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) did its very best to execute death row prisoner Doyle Lee Hamm, who was convicted of the execution style murder of Cullum hotel clerk Patrick Cunningham during a robbery in 1987. Hamm was represented by Columbia Law School professor Bernard Harcourt. Harcourt clearly warned the ADOC that it would not be possible to execute Doyle Hamm by lethal injection, due to his inadequate and inaccessible veins. Because of a history of extensive drug use and chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma cancer and carcinoma, Hamm’s veins were collapsed and compromised. Two United States Court justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, agreed with this assessment and voted against the administration of the death penalty by lethal injection in this case. Because the majority of the justices voted in favor of the execution, it proceeded as planned.

This is the detailed report of the attempted execution of Doyle Lee Hamm. At 9:00 pm on February 22, two state attendants dressed in scrubs entered the execution chamber at Holman Correctional Facility and stood on each side of Hamm, who was strapped tightly into a gurney. According to attorney Bernard Harcourt, who witnessed the debacle, the state employees’ actions included “sticking needles into his flesh and bones, pushing and pulling them out repeatedly, trying the surrounding tissue for over thirty minutes, causing excruciating pain” to Doyle. The employee failed five times to find a suitable vein to administer the legal drugs. Following this, a second set of executioners attempted to accomplish what the first set were unable to.  One carried an ultrasound device. According to Reutter, she “lathered gel on Hamm’s groin while her companion inserted multiple needles into his groin and pelvis.” Harcourt stated that these executioners “likely punctured his bladder or femoral artery, causing a large hematoma and  bruising down his leg, deep, long-lasting pain in  his groin, blood in his urine, a severe limp and a lymphatic infection.” At 11:30 pm, after 2 ½ hours of repeated, painful needle probing failed to locate even one usable vein, the ADOC finally pulled the plug on its disastrous execution attempt. At a later news conference, Jefferson S. Dunn, Commissioner of the ADOC, attempted, under extraordinarily challenging circumstances, to put the best possible spin on the events. “I wouldn’t necessarily characterize what we had tonight as a problem.” Unfortunately, Reutter’s article did not reveal how the Commissioner characterized the State of Alabama’s diligent execution efforts.

However, physician Dr. Mark Health did. In his March 5, 2018 medical report following his post-execution examination of Doyle L. Hamm, Dr. Health discovered 11 puncture wounds on his “lower extremities and groin.” Hamm told Dr. Health he wanted to die and “get it [the execution] over with,” because the puncture wounds were so excruciatingly painful. Attorney Bernard Harcourt recorded his observations in a blog post. “This went beyond ghoulish justice and cruel and unusual punishment,” he wrote. “It was torture…because it was entirely avoidable; it was also deliberate in its barbarism.” Harcourt stated that “the cruelty of what happened to Hamm that night is shocking, but consistent with a long tradition of barbaric executions in Alabama.” Bernard Harcourt concluded his blog comments with these statements. “The task of finding usable veins – in this case, on a frail and prematurely aged body – is now revealed as merely the latest chapter in this ghoulish history. I fear that this country has slipped into casual brutality and callous habits of mind, by which we are used to such  punishments, unable to judge what is ‘cruel and unusual’ about them.”

In a country long famous for being tough on crime and severe in its punishments, regardless of the fairness of the legal proceedings or the guilt of the convicted defendants, defense attorney Bernard Harcourt of Columbia University witnessed and described a failed execution attempt that was extreme and shocking, even by American standards. After detailing the nightmarish scenario his client was forced to endure, even after a clear warning had been issued declaring that the lethal injection would not work for the very reasons the state failed, Harcourt was left to speculate about what the Eighth Amendment constitutional standard of “cruel and unusual punishment” means. Is it cruel to force a condemned prisoner to endure 2 ½ hours of repeated puncture wounds to his arms and groin in an attempt to execute him? Considering that Doyle Lee Hamm, aged 61, was only the fourth person in U.S. history to survive an American execution, it certainly qualifies as “unusual.” Since executions are considered the “ultimate punishment,” it appears to the Court Jester that the relentless, repeated attempts of the State of Alabama to carry out the state sanctioned killing of Doyle Lee Hamm covered all three prongs of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Although Doyle Lee Hamm received no monetary reward in a recent confidential settlement following his state and federal litigation, the State of Alabama agreed never to attempt to execute him again. If the litigation had been unsuccessful it is somewhere between probable and extremely likely that the Alabama Department of Corrections would have implemented the classic American adage: “If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.”

18 thoughts on Unvarnished Truths about the Death Penalty in the United States: Part II

    • Hello:
      Thank you for your critique. The Court Jester appreciates criticism, as well as compliments. He would be glad to address your reasoning for your comments if you would like. Send an email to thecourtjesterorg@gmail.com. I will get that to him. He will gladly answer you back. The Court Jester is actually a friend of mine who is incarcerated and has been for almost ten years. He spends his time writing books and this blog. He sends me his handwritten works and I type them up. I am putting his stories together to offer his manuscripts to publishers. I also type his blog posts and publish them here, twice a week on Monday and Thursday. You can always send a note to his email address: thecourtjesterorg@gmail.com. I am his friend and blog master. I will get your notes to him and will respond to you, likewise. Please spread the word about this blog site. My friend should never have went to prison. He was treated unjustly by the court systems in America. Thank you. Will Black

    • Hello:
      Thank you for your comments. The Court Jester is actually a friend of mine who is incarcerated and has been for almost ten years. He spends his time writing books and this blog. He sends me his handwritten works and I type them up. I am putting his stories together to offer his manuscripts to publishers. I also type his blog posts and publish them here, twice a week on Monday and Thursday. You can always send a note to his email address: thecourtjesterorg@gmail.com. I am his friend and blog master. I will get your notes to him and will respond to you, likewise. Please spread the word about this blog site. My friend should never have went to prison. He was treated unjustly by the court systems in America. Thank you. Will Black

  1. Unquestionably imagine that which you stated. Your favorite reason appeared to be at the internet the simplest factor to remember of. I say to you, I definitely get irked even as other people think about issues that they just don’t understand about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as smartly as defined out the whole thing with no need side-effects , folks can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank you

    • Hello:
      Thank you for your comments. The Court Jester is actually a friend of mine who is incarcerated and has been for almost ten years. He spends his time writing books and this blog. He sends me his handwritten works and I type them up. I am putting his stories together to offer his manuscripts to publishers. I also type his blog posts and publish them here. You can always send a note to his email address: thecourtjesterorg@gmail.com. I am his friend and blog master. I will get your notes to him and will respond to you, likewise. Please spread the word about this blog site. My friend should never have went to prison. He was treated unjustly by the court systems in America. Thank you. Will Black

    • Hello:
      Thank you for your comments. The Court Jester is actually a friend of mine who is incarcerated and has been for almost ten years. He spends his time writing books and this blog. He sends me his handwritten works and I type them up. I am putting his stories together to offer his manuscripts to publishers. I also type his blog posts and publish them here, twice a week on Monday and Thursday. You can always send a note to his email address: thecourtjesterorg@gmail.com. I am his friend and blog master. I will get your notes to him and will respond to you, likewise. Please spread the word about this blog site. My friend should never have went to prison. He was treated unjustly by the court systems in America. You can learn about his court case by clicking on the link “Origins of the Court Jester.” Thank you. Will Black

    • Thank you for your recent comments. The Court Jester is actually a friend of mine who is incarcerated and has been for almost ten years. He spends his time writing books and this blog. He sends me his handwritten works and I type them up. I am putting his stories together to offer his manuscripts to publishers. I also type his blog posts and publish them here, twice a week on Monday and Thursday. You can always send a note to his email address: thecourtjesterorg@gmail.com. I am his friend and blog master. I will get your notes to him and will respond to you, likewise. Please spread the word about this blog site. My friend should never have went to prison. He was treated unjustly by the court systems in America. You can learn about his court case by clicking on the link “Origins of the Court Jester.” Thank you. Will Black

  2. Hi would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using?

    I’m planning to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S My apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

    • Hey, Sasha:
      Thank you for responding to my friend’s blog. You asked about which platform to use. I publish the Court Jester blogs for my friend who is incarcerated. I use Word Press with GoDaddy as the host. I found the price reasonable. As far as the look is concerned, I had an idea how I wanted to it to look, but I needed a professional to actually design it and set it up for me. All I had to do was purchase the hosting package with personal domain. If you want, I can give you the name of that developer. I found him through Upwork. I have used him on other projects and I know he does good work at a decent price. Let me know what you want to do.
      Respectfully,
      Will Black

  3. Have you ever considered writing an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs?
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    If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

    • Thank you for your recent comments. The Court Jester is actually a friend of mine who is incarcerated and has been for ten years. He spends his time writing books and this blog. He sends me his handwritten works and I type them up. I am putting his stories together to offer his manuscripts to publishers. He has written two books about his former work as a psychotherapist and stories from his dad’s work as a mortician. He has also written two large volumes on his prison experience. Turning those into ebooks is an interesting concept. I also type his blog posts and publish them here, twice a week on Monday and Thursday. As far as guest authoring on other blogs is concerned, I would have to coordinate that. Let me know what you have in mind. I will get that message to him and he will answer you back and send me his guest blog copy. You can always send a note to his email address: thecourtjesterorg@gmail.com. I am his friend and blog master. I will get your notes to him and will respond to you, likewise. Please spread the word about this blog site. My friend should never have went to prison. He was treated unjustly by the court systems in America. You can learn about his court case by clicking on the link “Origins of the Court Jester.” Thank you. Will Black

  4. Hello! I’ve been following your web site for a long time now and finally got the bravery to
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    Just wanted to say keep up the fantastic job!

    • Thank you for your recent comments. It is good to know that Americans are paying attention to the Court Jester. I really like the fact that a Texan is reading and likes his work. The Court Jester is actually a friend of mine who is incarcerated and has been for ten years. He spends his time writing books and this blog. He sends me his handwritten works and I type them up. I am putting his stories together to offer his manuscripts to publishers. He has written two books about his former work as a psychotherapist and stories from his dad’s work as a mortician. He has also written two large volumes on his prison experience. I also type his blog posts and publish them here, twice a week on Monday and Thursday. You can always send a note to his email address: thecourtjesterorg@gmail.com. I am his friend and blog master. I will get your message to him and will respond to you, likewise. Please spread the word about this blog site. My friend should never have went to prison. He was treated unjustly by the court systems in America. You can learn about his court case by clicking on the link “Origins of the Court Jester.” Thank you. Will Black

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