Yesterday, we began reviewing the data on majority opinions in death penalty cases from 1990 through the Court’s last death penalty appeal in 2010. Today, we look at a related question: did the Court’s majority opinions tend to run longer when the Court was partially or fully reversing?
Interestingly, across the entire twenty year period, the Court’s majority opinions tended to be somewhat shorter when the Court was vacating the death penalty. The Court affirmed in full in 124 cases. The average majority opinion was 41.911 pages. Eighteen times, the Court partially reversed with the sentence affirmed. The average majority opinion was 51.889 pages. The Court partially reversed and vacated the death penalty in 29 cases. The average majority opinion was 34.69 pages. In the Court’s 33 outright reversals, the average majority opinion was 25.147 pages.
Justice by Justice, majority opinions in affirmances ranged from an average of 78.5 pages (Juatice Cunningham) to 23.5 pages (Justice Thomas). Justice Stamos’ average was 77 pages, Justice Karmeier 67.5, Justice Clark 62.6 and Justice Ward 60. Justice Moran’s average was 56.67 pages, Justice Garman 55.33, Justice Ryan 50, Justice McMorrow 48.08 pages, Justice Bilandic 44.15, Justice Miller 43.29, Justice Freeman 42.88 and Justice Burke 40 pages. Justice Calvo’s average majority opinion was 36 pages, Justice Nickels 33.57, Justice Fitzgerald 31.75 pages, Justice Harrison 30.25 pages, Justice Rathje 27 pages, and Justice Heiple’s average majority opinion was 23.63 pages.
Justice Moran’s average majority opinion in partial reversals with the sentence affirmed was 86 pages. Justice Stamos’ average opinion was 79.5 pages. Justice Ward’s average was 68 pages. Justice Bilandic averaged 58 pages in such cases, Justice Miller 47.2 pages, Justice Harrison 45.33 pages, Justice McMorrow 43 pages, Justice Garman averaged 39 pages, Justice Clark 27 pages and Justice Rathje averaged 24 pages.
Justice McMorrow averaged 52.25 pages in partial reversals with the sentence vacated. Justice Garman averaged 50 pages, Justice Moran 49, Justice Clark 45, Justice Freeman 40.25, Justice Thomas 35, Justice Nickels 33.5 pages, Justice Bilandic 30.5, Justice Miller 28, Justice Fitzgerald 21, Justice Heiple 16 and Justice Harrison averaged 10 pages.
Finally, we address the Court’s 33 reversals. In nearly every case, outright reversals have been shorter than the same Justice’s affirmances. Justice Calvo averaged 71.5 pages, Justice Freeman averaged 39 pages, Justice Ryan 37.5 pages, Justice Clark 37 pages, Justice McMorrow averaged 24.83 pages, Justice Fitzgerald 23.33 pages and Justice Stamos 22 pages. The remaining Justices’ majority opinions in reversals were even shorter: Justice Nickels 16.5 pages, Justice Bilandic 15 pages, Justice Miller 14.5 pages, Justice Kilbride averaged 12 pages, Justice Heiple 10 pages, Justice Harrison 7.5 pages, and Justice Rathje 3 pages.
Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn our attention to a new issue in our study.