Bernard Harcourt and the State of Alabama Settle Civil Rights and Habeas Corpus Lawsuits

Harcourt, pro bono counsel for death-row inmate Doyle Lee Hamm, negotiates a resolution to end efforts at execution in decades-long death penalty case.

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New York, March 27, 2018—Attorneys for Doyle Lee Hamm and for the State of Alabama entered into a private settlement agreement yesterday that resolves all pending litigation in federal and state court over the planned execution of Hamm in this decades-long death penalty case.

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.

After signing a confidential settlement agreement, Columbia Law School Professor Bernard E. Harcourt, who has represented Hamm pro bono for over 28 years, jointly moved with the State of Alabama to dismiss Hamm’s §1983 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 is a great relief to Doyle Hamm,” Harcourt said. “It comes after lengthy, fruitful discussions with the Alabama Attorney General’s office.”

Doyle Lee Hamm
Doyle Lee Hamm

Harcourt had been in settlement discussions with the state of Alabama for the past month.

“It has been rewarding to work through and resolve these legal issues with counsel at the Alabama Attorney General’s office,” Harcourt added. “It has also been amazing to work so closely with our extraordinary students here at Columbia.”

Harcourt was assisted in the settlement negotiations by several Columbia Law School students who for over seven months now formed his legal team, including two third-year Columbia Law students, Nika Cohen and Phoebe Wolfe, recent Columbia undergraduate Isadora Ruyter-Harcourt, and the administrative director of the Columbia Center for Contemporary Thought, Anna Krauthamer. Over the years, Harcourt was assisted on Hamm’s case by other CLS students, especially Michael Cassel, a 2016 graduate; Laura Baron ’18 and Jindu Obiofuma ’18; and more recently by first-year law students Benedict Bernstein and Gregory Bernstein.

(Left ro right) Nika Cohen ’18, Phoebe Wolfe ’18, Professor Bernard Harcourt, and Isadora Ruyter-Harcourt BC ’16
(Left ro right) Nika Cohen ’18, Phoebe Wolfe ’18, Professor Bernard Harcourt, and Isadora Ruyter-Harcourt BC ’16

In addition, Mark Heath, M.D., an anesthesiologist and professor of medicine at Columbia University, consulted with Harcourt’s legal team.

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Recommended reading

Updates on the case of Doyle Lee Hamm

Jennifer Gonnerman in the New Yorker: The Long Defense of the Alabama Death-Row Prisoner Doyle Lee Hamm


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Modified on March 28, 2018

Posted on March 27, 2018