Gomez v. United States District Court for the Northern District of California


No. A-767 Argued: --- Decided: April 21, 1992

Harris claims that his execution by lethal gas is cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment. This case 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 [p654] framed as a habeas petition or § 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, 503 U.S. 236 (1992); Delo v. Stokes, 495 U.S. 320 (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.