If the death sentences in Alabama, Texas and Florida had all gone ahead on Thursday night as planned, it would have marked the first time in eight years that three convicted killers were executed on the same day. Two ended up being called off, NPR reports. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott granted clemency to Thomas Whitaker, 38, commuting his sentence to life in prison. The execution in Alabama of Doyle Lee Hamm was postponed after last minute legal wrangling pushed late into the evening. Only the execution of Florida inmate Eric Scott Branch, 47, who was convicted of raping and killing a college student decades ago, was carried out.
Branch thrashed on the gurney where he was strapped to receive a lethal injection, managing to scream “murderers!” three times before he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. In Texas, the Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously to recommend clemency for Whitaker, whose father had kept up a relentless campaign on his behalf, despite his son’s role in the 2003 murder of his wife and only other child. Abbott agreed and granted his first commutation of a death sentence as governor, after allowing 30 others to be carried out. In Alabama, Hamm’s execution was unable to begin before a midnight deadline on his death warrant expired. Appeals for Hamm, 61, who was convicted of killing a hotel clerk in 1987, revolved around whether his cancer “had left him healthy enough to be executed without excessive suffering,” reports AL.com. The execution was set for 6 p.m. A temporary stay from the U.S. Supreme Court was lifted at about 9 p.m., leaving the state clear to proceed. But from that point, things moved slowly, and the state did not meet the deadline.