Fierro v. Gomez

Landmark Case
Apr 16, 1992

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

After four years going through the courts, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California's use of a gas chamber does indeed constitute cruel and unusual punishment. In 1992 a lawsuit was filed on behalf of three inmates sentenced to death. The inmates sought an injunction to stop San Quentin's use of a gas chamber on the grounds that it was a violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

In 1994 the United States District Court found that the gas chamber is "widely viewed as an antiquated mode of execution, causing a slow, painful and inhumane death" and prohibited California from using this method to execute prisoners.

San Quentin's own doctors' recordings of two executions showed both men alive and conscious of pain for several minutes after gas had been released into the chamber.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed this decision, and the state appealed toe the Supreme Court. The Court remanded the case back to the Ninth Circuit to determine whether new legislation, which allowed executions by lethal injection and left the gas chamber as a default method, had solved the issues at hand.

However, in February 1996, the Ninth Circuit unanimously upheld their previous ruling ending this method of execution in California.

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Case Developments


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to end California's use of the gas chamber.