On April 15, 2004, David Ray Harris, a death-sentenced inmate at the Huntsville Prison in Texas filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Texas Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Harris complained that Texas' use of lethal injection ...
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On April 15, 2004, David Ray Harris, a death-sentenced inmate at the Huntsville Prison in Texas filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Texas Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Harris complained that Texas' use of lethal injection as an execution method violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and he asked the Court to permanently enjoin the defendants from using lethal injection on any prisoner.
On April 30, 2004, the District Court (Judge Vanessa Gilmore) dismissed the complaint without addressing the merits, finding that Harris's complaint was nothing more than a successive habeas corpus complaint and ruling that Harris must seek authorization from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (who had denied Harris's previous habeas claim) before filing a successive habeas petition in the district courts.
Harris appealed, and on June 23, 2004, the Fifth Circuit (Judges Jerry Edwin Smith, James L. Dennis, and Edith Brown Clement) issued a per curiam opinion reversing the District Court's dismissal of the case in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Nelson v. Campbell, 124 S.Ct. 2117 (2004), which was decided after the District Court's decision in this case. In Nelson, the Supreme Court found that § 1983 was an appropriate vehicle for some challenges to state execution methods, and that not all such challenges are habeas claims. In light of this ruling, the Fifth Circuit remanded the case back to the District Court for consideration. Harris v. Johnson, No. 04-70020, 2004 WL 1427042 (5th Cir. Jun. 23, 2004).
Six days later, the District Court (Judge Gilmore) granted Harris's request for a temporary restraining order and stay of execution in order to allow for a hearing in the case and denying the defendants' motion to dismiss. The defendants appealed the denial of their motion to dismiss.
The next day, the Fifth Circuit overruled the District Court's granting of the stay of execution and dismissed the case. Harris asked the Supreme Court to review the decision, but the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
On June 30, 2004 in Huntsville, Texas, David Ray Harris was executed by lethal injection. The case was closed the next day. Kristen Sagar - 09/16/2007