Bernard E. Harcourt challenges constitutionality of lethal injection in Alabama death penalty case
last updated: March 30, 2018
Bernard E. Harcourt, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought, has represented death row inmate Doyle Lee Hamm since 1990.
Hamm, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1987 for the robbery-murder of a Cullman County motel clerk, Patrick Cunningham, challenged his capital sentence for more than 31 years. Since 2014, Hamm has been battling lymphatic cancer and carcinoma. Treatment for the illness has compromised Hamm’s veins–Harcourt argued that lethal injection would likely cause “cruel and needless pain.”
After signing a confidential settlement agreement, Harcourt jointly moved with the State of Alabama to dismiss Hamm’s civil rights lawsuit and federal habeas corpus petition in the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham, as well as his state post-conviction Rule 32 petition in Cullman County, Alabama. This will end efforts at setting another execution date.
Litigating Executive Power and Islamophobia
Attorney Thomas A. Durkin and Professor Bernard E. Harcourt represented pro bono Dr. Al Homssi who was adversely affected by the Executive Order banning Muslims entered on January 29, 2017, and challenged the constitutionality of the EO under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
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Life Imprisonment without Parole Litigation
Phillip Tomlin was convicted of capital murder in Mobile County, Ala., in 1978 and sentenced to death. After 27 years on death row, Tomlin’s capital sentence was vacated in 2004 and he was resentenced to life imprisonment without parole (LWOP). For the past 36 years, Tomlin has been challenging the various judicial reinterpretations of the 1975 Alabama Death Penalty Statute. In June 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta finally agreed to hear his challenge to the 1975 statute under which he is sentenced to LWOP. Tomlin filed his brief at the 11th Circuit on Oct.6, 2014, with the assistance of the center. On July 16, 2015, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s denial of the habeas corpus petition and remanded for further review of the LWOP challenge.