Welcome to America: Execution of terminally ill patient fails miserably (as expected)

What’s the point of executing a terminally ill inmate, especially one who has no decent veins to receive the fatal injection? After all, the person is going to die soon anyway, so why the public murder? So the victims can actually see the guy die, and thereby achieve some degree of “closure”? That’s the type of closure I don’t understand.

Here’s the case of Doyle Hamm (click the screenshot to read Cohen’s piece), 61, convicted in Alabama for the 1987 killing of a motel clerk. Cohen claims that Hamm’s conviction involved “oversights and misrepresentations,” but I don’t know enough to verify that. Nevertheless, being on death row for three decades could, as Cohen notes, constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Hamm is terminally ill with advanced lymphoma and carcinoma, and also (as CNN reports) with hepatitis C and epilepsy with multiple seizures, as well as several head injuries. He’s a goner. If that wasn’t enough, a medical exam in September concluded that Hamm had “no usable veins” because of the cancer and years of drug use, and that the state of Alabama didn’t have proper execution procedures to deal with that problem.

But they went ahead with the execution anyway after a lower-court stay was reversed and the Supreme Court refused to review the case. Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, could have stopped the charade but didn’t. And the results were disgustingly predictable: Hamm was in the execution chamber for 2.5 hours, and it was a mess. As the doctors predicted, they couldn’t find a vein, repeatedly jabbing him all over the place and doing serious and painful damage to his body.


Hamm’s attorney, Bernard Harcourt, wrote Sunday in a blog post following a physician’s two-hour exam of his client that “the IV personnel almost certainly punctured Doyle’s bladder, because he was urinating blood for the next day. They may have hit his femoral artery as well, because suddenly there was a lot of blood gushing out.””He has pain going from the lower abdomen to the upper thigh,” Harcourt wrote, noting more than 10 puncture wounds. “He is limping badly now and terribly sore.”

Hamm was eventually removed from the execution chamber and put back on death row. It’s not clear whether the state still plans to execute him. A district court has ordered a full medical exam of Hamm, and perhaps that’s to see if there’s some other way to kill him.

The ultimate callous statement came from the Department of Corrections, which had to call off the execution after 2.5 hours because it was supposed to be over at midnight:

“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize what we had tonight as a problem,” Jeff Dunn, Alabama Department of Corrections commissioner, told reporters shortly after the execution was stopped. “The only indication I have is that in their medical judgment it was more of a time issue, given the late hour.”

Hamm will die soon anyway. There is no good reason I can see to inflict more torture on him by sticking him with more needles in the execution chamber. Isn’t a slow death from cancer at least as bad as a lethal injection? Simple human decency requires that the governor call off the execution and let Hamm die in prison.


  1. Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. It’s simply barbaric…

    • GBJames
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Barbaric, indeed.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I completely agree. This is appalling. Whatever he may have done, he’s still a human being.

      The US is the only developed country that still has the death penalty (except a small number who retain it solely for treason). What is it about USians that makes so many need this eye for an eye thing? I suspect the high degree of religiosity has a lot to do with it. (However, when I was still a Christian I thought we shouldn’t have the death penalty because decisions of life and death should be left to God.)

      I admit that if a poll were taken in my country following a particularly brutal murder, the result might be to bring back the death penalty. Thankfully, we have very few murders.

      Is this another aspect of the easy access to guns? There are so many brutal murders, that the public never gets to a place where they can contemplate the issue of the death penalty calmly. So their answer is always the easy one of killing the convicted killer (who is frequently actually innocent – but that’s another rabbit hole) rather than address the issue of the easy availability of guns.

      • mikeyc
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        It may be the religion, as you note, but from my perspective as a USAian, it may be more your second (or later) point – a response to the violence here.

        I don’t think the US is much different to many other countries when it comes to overall violence in our society, but we have a level of fear here that exists in few other places other than war zones or countries suffering from narco-conflicts.

        That fear is primarily (IMO), when one reduces the it to its roots, the result of so many guns. It isn’t even the mass murders that cause that fear. It’s the everyday crime, most of it not lethal, but always terrifying because the criminals here are often armed.

        So we are afraid and want vengeance on those who we see as exemplars of the source of that fear. Getting rid of guns won’t stop the US being a violent culture, but much of the fear would dissipate.

        My $0.02

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 28, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

          I agree. I don’t think the US is any more violent than most developed countries, it’s the availability of guns that makes the difference. There is genuine reason to be fearful. We have muggings for example, but I don’t recall ever hearing of a gun being involved.

          Because they’re so rare, all incidents involving guns are still reported on our national news, including injuries. That includes things like hunting accidents and accidental discharge.

          New Zealand has a hunting culture. Lots of people have rifles. It’s not easy getting a licence to own a gun though. Part of the process is the police have to approve applications and they interview partners, ex-partners, employers and others. Any history of criminal activity, including domestic violence and drug use rules you out. And with domestic violence, you don’t necessarily need a conviction.

          It’s even more difficult to get a licence to own a handgun. They’re extremely rare. Semis and automatics are banned. (I think collectors can own them if the gun’s been certified unfireable.)

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

            Slight correction re automatic weapons in NZ – they don’t have to be unfireable (as in some other countries) BUT you do have to be a suitably licensed collector and that’s not easy to get. You have to keep the guns in a strongroom (and the police will inspect it) and the bolts etc in a safe. Any ambitious gun thief would need to carry out the equivalent of a bank job to get away with them.

            The result is that there aren’t many licensed collectors – you have to be serious to go to those lengths.

            Handguns – I think members of pistol clubs can own them, but I believe they have to be kept at the club, not taken home.


            • Heather Hastie
              Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

              Thanks for the info re autos. My understanding also is that you have to be a member of a pistol club and keep them on the premises. The licensing requirements are also much tougher for hand guns. I think you have to have an ordinary license for a while first (?2 years?) for starters.

          • Gordon
            Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

            To be fair every traffic accident that clogs up the motorway for an hour is reported on national news in New Zealand as is every time a tourist’s van is broken into.

            I also note this guy spent 3 decades on death row – down here he would probably have been released from prison at least a decade ago. While you get life for murder there is a non-parole period specified-longest ever given is 33 years and only 11 over 20 years. I probably should note that criminal violations while on parole can and do result in you being recalled to prison.

  2. alexandra Moffat
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Barbaric. And it’s not just the torture of the victim, it’s the further brutalization of the warden, the guards, the surrounding people,inmates….

    • darrelle
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink


    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Excellent point!!!

    • somer
      Posted March 1, 2018 at 9:19 pm | Permalink


  3. Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Ridiculous. This is (another reason) why I oppose capital punishment in the USA.

    How does someone like the governor of AL look herself in the mirror and come out feeling moral and correct in a case like this? Maybe just: Religion poisons everything.

    • Posted March 10, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      I am not sure that religion has an impact. In my country, we had most executions exactly in the period when religion was discouraged by government. Actually, some priests were convicted on phony charges and executed, the real reason – being priests.

  4. Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Maybe I shouldn’t say anything because it is Alabama. The south wouldn’t want a Yankee to comment on their ‘way of life’.

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Yeah I’m probably just reaching…

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Yes, this is a state with a proud Roy Moore heritage. Whatever we say would be very offensive.

  5. Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I’m not a fan of capital punishment but I’ve always wondered why it is so hard to execute someone painlessly when people do it accidentally every day via drug overdoses or bad drug combinations. Anyone know the answer?

    • mikeyc
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      I don’t know -good question- but I’ll venture a guess that once initiated an execution must succeed, so they have to be sure it will kill. So sure-fire things like NaCN (in the past) or i.v.KCl (now) are used for chemical execution. Guaranteed dead.

      Maybe barbiturates or opioids just aren’t that reliable?

    • darrelle
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      From what I understand, a current problem in the US is that many of the companies that sell drugs that are very effective for painlessly putting someone to sleep and killing them won’t sell the drugs to government entities, or any entities, that will use them for executions. Supposedly this has left US executioners, those that execute via lethal injection, no choice but to use less effective drugs that are more readily available. I mean, the choice to not execute people is just unthinkable. Immoral, even.

      • mikeyc
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        Holy crap. That’s why they use the method in the first place? wow ill let that settle in a bit.

        I had heard about the lack of killing drugs and impressed by the companies that refused to sell them and that caused some delays but I thought it was just a supply thing. I didn’t know they were needed because no other kinds were available.

        • darrelle
          Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

          I am admittedly not up to speed on this. It is possible that it is no longer an issue, but it hasn’t been very long since it apparently was.

          All the wishy washy qualifiers because I’m not up to date on the issue and though when I first came across it and read up on it a bit the claims seemed fairly plausible and well supported, I didn’t research it exhaustively.

      • BobTerrace
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        I am sure the government agencies could get the proper drugs if they really wanted to. Also states could pass a law that if they won’t sell the government a drug then they can’t sell that drug at all in that state. That would change things very quickly.

      • Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        Right, but I think those are drugs specialized for capital punishment. My understanding is that it is not that hard to kill someone even if it is required to be painless. (Ignoring mental anguish, of course.) It seems that the government requires the drugs to be designed only to be used for executions and the drug companies refuse to supply them for exactly that reason.

        • darrelle
          Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          Incompetence does seem to be a large factor too.

        • BobTerrace
          Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

          Veterinarians do it humanely every day for animals that can weigh up to the same mount as humans.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        That is my understanding too. Most drug companies won’t sell to entities like prisons that are going to use them to kill.

        Around this time last year Arkansas had to kill eight people in c. twenty days because they discovered that their last stocks of one of the killing drugs was about to expire and they couldn’t get any more. I wrote about it at the time: http://www.heatherhastie.com/arkansas-eight-lethal-injections-scheduled-end-april/

        • darrelle
          Posted February 28, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

          I remember that! That may have been what started me off looking into the issue.

      • Posted February 28, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        A simple injection of barbiturates would do the job, but, as said above, no company will sell them for lethal injections. And good for those companies.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      There is a rapid, successful euthanasia protocol that would 100% painlessly end the life of anyone & everyone [even Keith!]. It also has an option for the ‘patient’ to self-administer by pressing a button to remove the physician from some aspects of potential legal pushback.

      I can’t really answer your question [as posed] knowledgeably, but I note that each State has their own execution protocol & the whole procedure must have a legal framework. For example the Eight Amendment keeps tripping up executions in the States.

      The moment one settles on an ‘ideal’ drug or drug combo one is set up for failure:
      ** finding a regular, reliable manufacturer/supplier who’ll agree to the use of their product in an execution
      ** obtaining a cooperative physician who might find himself disbarred [or worse] at a later date

      The obvious solution is to do away with executions – the drawn out legal wrangling over decades must, of itself, have Eighth Amendment implications. Also more expensive than incarceration for life I presume [could easily be wrong!].

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        And IF you are the supplier of an execution drug is it worth the hassle for a few thousand dollars profit per execution? How certain can you be that you’re insulated from legal implications down the road? Lawyer activists will find a way to ruin your day & maybe you lose other customers who don’t want to be associated with you any more.

      • mikeyc
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        “Also more expensive than incarceration for life I presume [could easily be wrong!]”

        You are not wrong. In some states (California, for example) that cost difference can be more than 15x.

        See here for details

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 1, 2018 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        For what little it’s worth–the death penalty is illegal in 19 states. The distribution of which is not entirely intuitive:


    • Pliny the in Between
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      The answer is that it isn’t hard. There are many combinations of medication that would end life painlessly. I believe the current protocols use the strong sedatives to induce unconsciousness so that there is no perceived discomfort when the KCL is rapidly infused to stop the inmate’s heart.

      There are also several central IV access points that can be cannulated by a reasonably skilled clinician but since such individuals are ethically bound to not participate in such things the peripheral sites are the only option.

    • nicky
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I think it is really unforgivable to botch an execution. Don’t get me wrong, I think the death penalty is unconscionable and I oppose it, but if you want to execute: do it properly.
      If you want to do it chemically, one does not need exotic or patented poisons. Some generic morphine with a generic neuroleptic will do the trick, as well as barbiturates. Botched executions are a double shame: first the fact of executing in itself and then , secondly, botching it. Double shame. I would nearly volunteer to do it properly.

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Michael Portillo presented a documentary about executing people a year or two ago and he examined all the methods in use in the USA as well as a few alternatives like hanging and came to the conclusion that they were all barbaric.

      His “solution” was to put them in an air tight room and replace all the air with pure nitrogen. He even went as far as to try it out, although he ended the exercise before his health became endangered.

      If you really must execute people, this is a pretty humane way to do it. Unfortunately, as Portillo found out, some of the pro-capital punishment people in the USA want the opposite of humane.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        That was exactly my thought. Use nitrogen. Has the added advantage of not being dangerous in any way.

        As you say, it’d be too humane and painless for the death penalty proponents.


      • Diane G.
        Posted March 1, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        A similar procedure has been advocated for livestock slaughter, too.

    • Laurance
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

      Ummmmm…..these are criminals who are being punished, aren’t they? It’s supposed to hurt! The evildoer is supposed to suffer! Yeah, it could be done without suffering, but then it wouldn’t be a preview of the hell that some people believe they will be going to.

  6. Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Medieval layover. The journey for our species continues towards enlightenment, but it wouldn’t be a journey without having to travel on roads in need of repaving.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Compassion at the top of the Alabama power structure is harder to find than a vein on a comatose junkie.

  8. mikeyc
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Horrific and truly ugly. I agree they should let him die in jail. The lingering and painful death awaiting him ought to give those who want to execute him so comfort

    In case anyone is interested – Hamm killed a man by the name of Patrick Cunningham who, moments before he was murdered, saved the life of another guest at the hotel by warning her to flee saying; “there’s going to be trouble”. He was killed for $60.00

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Huh? Oh yeah, him.

      • mikeyc
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        I think that whenever the media reports on these stories they should always include information about the victim(s). We all know the names of the most notorious killers, but few can name any of their victims. That isn’t right (IMO).

  9. glen1davidson
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Too near death to execute?

    Alabama needs more sense of irony.

    Glen Davidson

  10. Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Why has the US never tried the guillotine? They could even make a public spectacle out of it, like the French once did, at least according to Dickens.

    Out-of-taste joke aside, “capital punishment”, ie, state killing of folks considered to be criminals, is barbaric and should have been done away with decades ago. No, centuries.

    • mikeyc
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      The last public execution by guillotine occurred in France in 1939. It was filmed.

      • nicky
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        Maybe the last public one, but the last one in France was in 1977! (Haniba Djandoubi). The death penalty was only abandoned there in 1981.
        The irony is that while the Guillotine has become a symbol of barbarism, it origins were ‘humanitarian’. Preventing botching executions with axe or sword, that often needed several blows before achieving the intended aim.
        Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotin, a free mason like G Washington, did not invent the guillotine, but was instrumental in establishing it as the preferred method of execution, out of -as mentioned- humanitarian motives. In fact he was actually opposed to the death penalty (and a pro vaxxer, btw).
        There was indeed a Monsieur Guillotin executed by the guillotine (urban legend tells that the inventor was executed by his own invention: wrong on 2 accounts), but it was not Joseph Ignace, who died at home of ‘natural causes’.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      The competition for design/construction of a Guillotine would be a competitive tender [ironic] involving Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman & the Boeing Company.

      It would overrun on costs by a factor of five & it would be delayed by 15 years while Washington lobbyists distribute their brown envelopes of cash & tickets to the ‘World’ Series Superbowl final. Meanwhile pols would be pork barrel the arse out of each other for votes.

      Democracy at its finest.

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Ironically, the guillotine represented a massive humane step forward. Prior to its introduction,, people in France had their heads removed by a man with an axe. If the executioner was the least bit incompetent or perhaps drunk, it often took a while and several blows to sever the body from the head.

  11. BobTerrace
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:11 am | Permalink


  12. Walt Jones
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Even when I was a believer I opposed capital punishment. After, the Romans thought killing Jesus was justified.

  13. phoffman56
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Unitistan of Amaarica

  14. darrelle
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Good Christian ethics at their finest.

    It is very difficult to grow out of barbarism when the people in charge and the institutions themselves are barbaric and proud of it.

  15. Simon Hayward
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting to contemplate that, if he were a lab animal, death as an experimental endpoint (equivalent to death from his cancer) would not be acceptable to an IACUC and he would have to be painlessly euthanized at some defined surrogate point. While sharing the general abhorrence with the death penalty expressed here, we are essentially arguing for an outcome that all experts consider unacceptable in animals.

    Painless euthanasia is something that we do routinely in small (and indeed large) mammals, but we apparently are not capable of extending this to humans on death row.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      One cannot but be struck by the irony that people who *want* to die must be prevented from doing so by all possible means, while people who presumably don’t want to die must be executed.

      Why? Oh, religion, as usual.


  16. boggy
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    France continued with public executions by guillotine until 1939 and in private until 1977.
    Germany used their version the ‘fallbeil’ during WW2 on conscientious objectors and until about 1950 in prisons.

    • nicky
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      And in Vietnam the ‘left-over’ guillotines were used during the Vietnam war…

  17. mordacious1
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I’ve always been a supporter of life without parole, as opposed to the death penalty, but if you’re going to execute someone, give them a boatload of sedatives and then guillotine them. This would be quick and painless, but for some reason, people would be appalled at this method. Instead, we have people flopping around on a table in agony, sometimes for quite awhile.

    • nicky
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Personally think ‘soft hanging’, aka strangling, is one of the more humane methods, often giving an orgasm, the victim loses consciousness before really suffocating (by cutting off the blood flow to the brain).
      If I were to commit suicide I’d choose soft hanging, efficient and painless.

      • boggy
        Posted March 1, 2018 at 1:11 am | Permalink

        ‘Soft hanging’ was replaced in prisons by the Long Drop invented by William Marwick in the early 19C. This causes immediate death by snapping the spinal cord. Suicide by hanging is soft hanging which is not an immediate method.

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 1, 2018 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

          Yes, and it would seem to involve several minutes of sheer terror.

  18. Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The whole point of execution is for the state (in the generic sense) to assert its authority over individuals. It has made a decision to kill a human and it intends to make its point by executing that plan.

    On the one hand, killing people is horrific. On the other, sometimes one irrational human poses such a threat that killing is justified. I question whether killing a captive human can be so easily justified. In any case, I wouldn’t absolutely rule out killing under certain circumstances.

    But if the state is going to execute these sentences, it should be forced to do so with the horror less hidden. Perhaps we should make a legal requirement that the governor of the State in question perform the execution personally with his bare hands while looking into the eyes of the condemned, all while being streamed live. I bet commuting death sentences would suddenly get popular.

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      There’s always life without parole you know: cheaper than the death penalty, no less of a deterrent, and, if you find that the person is innocent (happening more often now), they can be released.

      My view is if they are going to have executions, and they’re supposed to be a deterrent, they should be televised. That also lets people know exactly what the state is doing.

  19. Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    While the death penalty is something I don’t support, the mouth-breathing stupidity demonstrated by the State in regards to delivery of drugs is spectacular. Solution: Humeral head IO. Unbelievable.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 1, 2018 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      But remember that actual medical personnel cannot perform executions.

      • Posted March 1, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        True, but that procedure can be learned in a five minute YouTube presentation. In fact, you should head there and look up some, some young folks volunteer and even a few are funny.

        Alternatively, nitrogen bags are painless and quick. I don’t know why that is not in their protocols. To reiterate, I’m against the death penalty, we make too many mistakes, but this awful incompetence needs to stop if only to prevent embarrassment.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 1, 2018 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

          If physicians & coroners banded together & refused to get involved in any stage of the execution process it would cause serious problems for the legal protocol of executions. Even if you use a dim bulb to press the button, one still needs a medico involved even if only to pronounce “dead” & to sign a certificate saying so.

          • Posted March 1, 2018 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

            Again true, I fear that those dim bulbs are in the driver’s seat with Jessie as copilot; they’ll resort to bolt guns or even pull out the guillotines.

            There needs to be serious realignment of this country’s, in the mainstream, attitudes ;, politically, ethically, economically, and morally before we see any real change.

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 1, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

          But, but, but, but–whining power tools! Aack!

          Actually I had googled it but not watched the vids. Thanks for the encouragement–most interesting and apparently not nearly as ouchy as it looks!

          (All & all I still prefer nitrogen; you never know just how teachable someone recruited as executioner might be… 😉 )

  20. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I remember being quite appalled when candidate George W. Bush in a debate actually bragged about executing criminals in Texas as if was the courageous manly thing to do, with a kind of “heh heh heh”

    According to Wikipedia,
    “Under his leadership, Texas executed 152 prisoners, more than any previous governor in modern American history; critics such as Helen Prejean argue that he failed to give serious consideration to clemency requests.

    During his tenure, Bush presided over more executions of death row inmates than any other Governor in the history of Texas so far, surpassed only by his successor Rick Perry (Governor from 2000-2015). The rate averages an execution in the state every nine days.”.

    I’m totally against the death penalty, but in the case of Mr. Hamm, you’d think a revolver to the head would be (relatively) more humane.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Yep. It takes a real man to make the hard decisions.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Dubya was right proud of executing Karla Faye Tucker despite all the international pleas to grant her clemency. Afterward, he smirked and mocked the interview she had given Larry King while on death row.

      Of course, Bill Clinton was no better, making a big show of returning from the 1992 campaign trail to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a severely brain-damaged Arkansas inmate. Bubba felt it would burnish his tough-on-crime credentials and take attention away from the burgeoning scandal over his affair with Gennifer-with-a-“G” Flowers.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        I believe the Rector incident has been mentioned a bit by Christopher Hitchens, one of two progressive journalists I know who has been severely critical of the Clintons. (The other is Maureen Dowd.)

      • darrelle
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        This inspired me to look up Karla Faye Tucker. Which led me to this little tid-bit that illustrates the point alexandra Moffat made in comment 2 above.

        “The captain of the “Death House Team,” Fred Allen, was interviewed by Werner Herzog for the 2011 documentary Into the Abyss. Within days after Tucker’s execution, one of over 120 he managed, he suffered an emotional breakdown. He resigned his job, giving up his pension, and changed his position on the death penalty. “I was pro capital punishment. After Karla Faye and after all this, until this day, eleven years later, no sir. Nobody has the right to take another life. I don’t care if it’s the law. And it’s so easy to change the law.””

        I think the “What kind of society do you want to live in?” argument is the strongest one against the death penalty. Things like the death penalty actively affect society for the worse in a variety of ways.

  21. Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    How horrific.

  22. Posted February 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    To answer the first question as to why: For the governer to show that he is tough on crime. Hamm is a means to an end.

  23. Dave137
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    “What’s the point of executing a terminally ill inmate, especially one who has no decent veins to receive the fatal injection?”

    Because he doesn’t deserve to die of natural causes: His victim certainly wasn’t allowed that privilege.

    The state should terminate his life — not cancer, not old-age, nor any other ailment. Killing someone outside of self-defense breeds consequences, not compassion.

    His ability to live another ~30 years absolutely is a kind of cruel and unusual injustice: for his dead victim.

    • mikeyc
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      oh boy….

      • Dave137
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        Powerful rebuttal.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

          You didn’t make an argument meriting rebuttal; you merely blurted out a call for vengeance and retribution.

          • Dave137
            Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

            Another non-response. Go through my few points, point by point. I realize that’s difficult.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

              What is your point, Dave137 — that anyone who takes a life must forfeit their own, in eye-for-an-eye fashion, no exceptions?

              • Dave137
                Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

                If someone murders another, that person loses his life. Yeah, that sounds fine.

                What is your point, Ken?

                That murderers should be housed and fed at taxpayer expense for decades and decades while their victims, often in horrific fashion, lost their only chance to exist while also devastating their families?

              • darrelle
                Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

                Seems pretty clear to me that his point is that your points are pointless.

              • Harrison
                Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

                If the state is found to have wrongfully executed someone does that make them murderers? Or should we be lenient and call it manslaughter?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted February 28, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

                Dave137 —

                So you would execute everyone convicted of murder, regardless of mitigating or extenuating circumstances? Does that include minors and the mentally retarded?

                There are currently over 2,800 inmates on death row in the US. You ready to execute them all? Ready to fill up death row with the thousands of bodies that will start stacking up each year if we are to execute every defendant convicted of murder charges?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted February 28, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

                Would you require states that have abolished capital punishment to reinstate it?

    • Harrison
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Let’s ignore the ethical angle and just talk budget: How expensive must the process become and how many other of the state’s responsibilities should it scale back or abdicate entirely because it instead spent that money on killing a single person?

      • Harrison
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        Should read “how expensive must the process become before it is no longer cost-effective?”

      • Dave137
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Defendants deserve due process.

        Once convicted, and after any appeals, punishment should be served swiftly — particularly in cases involving barbarous injury or death. (Larry Nassar, for example, should meet oblivion now: not in several decades by way of his own natural decay.)

        As far as cost to taxpayers, inmates lingering for 30 years on Death Row is both wasteful and inexcusable, and yes, it may be Unconstitutional. That portion of the argument is legitimate.

        But that does not excuse the convicted. In the case cited within Dr Coyne’s post, I have little compassion for this or any murderer. He should have been executed much earlier, which by itself would save taxpayers the bulk of that bill.

        • Harrison
          Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          You can’t have a system of executions that is speedy and cheap without depriving the accused of due process.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

            Nor without great risk of executing the innocent.

            • Dave137
              Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

              Then free everyone from jail. Why should the innocent be locked up. No one is guilty I guess.

              There’s always a risk that our system gets it wrong. So we have to refine it as best we can, and to ensure accountability when such mistakes are made.

          • Dave137
            Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            I don’t find that persuasive. Due process, as I said in my previous comment, is paramount.

            But it doesn’t mean, upon completion of that process, that punishment for murder must be pushed off indefinitely.

        • Posted February 28, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

          So one of the planks of your argument is that you can save money by killing people.

          Excuse me, but I find that completely unpalatable.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

            He is correct.

            It would save even more money if anyone charged by the police with a capital offence was just taken away and shot straight away without wasting money on a trial. After all, the police wouldn’t have charged them if they weren’t guilty, would they?

            Mistakes? Doesn’t matter, G*d can sort ’em out.


        • Posted March 1, 2018 at 7:39 am | Permalink

          If killing is wrong in your eyes, & I am not claiming it is, how can you justify it at all?

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      A justice system that is based on the idea of revenge is simply a childish thing. It takes no moral high ground of being better than the ones that are convicted, it’s just a “boohoo he hit me, so I hit him back” charade enacted by totally immature arseholes.

      • Dave137
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        If a person murders someone, or murders many people, that person should be removed from this existence: promptly.

        It isn’t revenge; it’s accountability.

        • GBJames
          Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

          Good thing you’re never wrong.

          • Dave137
            Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

            Open the jails then.

            • GBJames
              Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

              We do. We open the jail when it turns out someone was wrongly convicted. This is not uncommon, although it assumes that the wrongly-convicted person is still alive.

              • Posted March 2, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

                Indeed – in designing any system one has to “plan for failure”. In a capital case, the disaster that results from failure is *too high*.

        • Posted February 28, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          If a person murders someone, or murders many people, that person should be removed from this existence: promptly.


          This is not an accounting exercise. You don’t somehow balance the books by killing the bad guy. The victims remain dead.

          As for accountability, I would have thought the is better served by getting them to understand what they have done and live with that understanding. Killing them has no positive value.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

            “accountability” is a marvellous weasel word, and what it usually means is “revenge”.


    • GBJames
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      “for his dead victim”

      You know this because the victims told you?

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      No one deserves to die PERIOD. What good will killing another person accomplish? It will satisfy the meed for retribution, sure, but does anyone who is a victim of their circumstances deserve to die because of factors outside their control?

      Killing someone does deserve consequences. The whole argument is whether death is an appropriate consequence. I’m arguing no, it isn’t. What if someone were wrongfully executed, as someone else has also mentioned? How do you take back the punishment?

      And if you argue for less compassion, why not let him live? Him dying a slow painful death definitely satisfies the need for retribution more than relieving him of the pain he will go through.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

        “What if someone were wrongfully executed, as someone else has also mentioned? How do you take back the punishment?”

        It is of course much cheaper.

        Anyone who has spent years or decades in prison and is then found to have been wrongly convicted (e.g. by DNA evidence) is usually awarded millions of dollars in compensation. If they’ve been executed, not so much. In fact that usually pre-empts any attempts to overturn the verdict, which also helps keep those awkward wrongful-convictions statistics down. It’s win-win (except for the executed, and he doesn’t count, he’s dead).


  24. Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    The Inquisition torturers would be sniggering all the way to hell and back with that effort.
    This is Alabama’s Iron Maiden, which did not exist, like Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey’s compassion and ability to know when enough is enough.
    There was the real thing called The Virgin of Nuremberg which would piece the body in multiple places missing vital organs, not to kill directly and prolong the suffering.
    What a way to start the day.

    • nicky
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Makes one think of the ‘lingering death’ in China: cutting the victim (well yes let us call them victims here) slowly, avoiding vital organs. Urban legend tells us that while the local executioners took days, the more skilled imperial ones could make it last for weeks.

      • Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        nice guys meet them everywhere, probably psychopaths but may have been good surgeons in another time and place… maybe, maybe not -)

  25. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    So they were stabbing the guy to death?

    Sheesh, woulda been more humane to stand the guy against a wall and let the local NRA shoot the shit out of him, wouldn’t it?


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