- 503 U.S. 653 (1992)
OCTOBER TERM, 1991
GOMEZ ET AL. v. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA ET AL.
ON APPLICATION TO VACATE STAY No. A-767. Decided April 21, 1992
The Court of Appeals granted Robert Alton Harris a stay of execution pending a review of his 42 U. S. C. § 1983 claim that his execution by lethal gas would be cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Held: The application to vacate the stay of execution is granted. Harris' action is an obvious attempt to avoid the application of McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U. S. 467, to bar this successive claim for relief. He has made no convincing showing of cause for his failure to raise this claim in his four prior federal habeas petitions. Even assuming that he could avoid the application of McCleskey, his claim should not be considered on the merits. Since he is seeking an equitable remedy, the State's strong interest in proceeding with its judgment and Harris' obvious attempt at manipulation must be taken into consideration. This claim could have been raised more than a decade ago, and there is no reason for this abusive delay, which has been compounded by the last-minute attempts to manipulate the judicial process.
Robert Alton Harris brought a 42 U. S. C. § 1983 action claiming that execution by lethal gas is cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment. This action is an obvious attempt to avoid the application of McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U. S. 467 (1991), to bar this successive claim for relief. Harris has now filed four prior federal habeas petitions. He has made no convincing showing of cause for his failure to raise this claim in his prior petitions.
Even if we were to assume, however, that Harris could avoid the application of McCleskey to bar his claim, we would not consider it on the merits. Whether his claim is
STEVENS, J., dissenting
framed as a habeas petition or as a § 1983 action, Harris seeks an equitable remedy. Equity must take into consideration the State's strong interest in proceeding with its judgment and Harris' obvious attempt at manipulation. See In re Blodgett, 502 U. S. 236 (1992); Delo v. Stokes, 495 U. S. 320, 322 (1990) (KENNEDY, J., concurring). This claim could have been brought more than a decade ago. There is no good reason for this abusive delay, which has been compounded by last-minute attempts to manipulate the judicial process. A court may consider the last-minute nature of an application to stay execution in deciding whether to grant equitable relief.
The application to vacate the stay of execution of death is granted, and it is ordered that the orders staying the execution of Robert Alton Harris entered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in No. 92-70237 on April 20, 1992, are vacated.
JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom JUSTICE BLACKMUN joins, dissenting.
In a time when the Court's jurisprudence concerning the imposition of the death penalty grows ever more complicated, Robert Alton Harris brings a simple claim. He argues that California's method of execution-exposure to cyanide gas-constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. In light of all that we know today about the extreme and unnecessary pain inflicted by execution by cyanide gas, and in light of the availability of more humane and less violent methods of execution, Harris' claim has merit. I would deny the State's application to vacate the stay imposed by the Court of Appeals and allow the courts below to hear and rule on Harris' claim.