Measuring Influence in Death Penalty Cases – Which Justices Were Most Often in the Majority?

For the past several weeks, we’ve been comparing the death penalty jurisprudence of the Illinois and California Supreme Courts.  Having reviewed the county-by-county reversal rates last week, this week we’re looking at the individual Justices.  We’ll review two  indices of the Justices’ views and influence on the Court: first, the percentage of cases where the Justice voted with the majority, and next week, the distribution of each Justice’s votes between affirmance, partial reversal and complete reversal.

In order to capture evolutions in the Justices’ views, we review the data five years at a time.  Justices Moran, Ward and Cunningham voted in the majority in 100% of their death penalty cases.  Justice Moran voted with the majority in 51 cases.  Justice Cunningham was in the majority in all 29 of his death penalty cases.  Justice Ward was in the majority in all 14 of his death penalty cases.  Justice Bilandic voted with the majority in 95.08% of his 61 death penalty cases.  Justice Ryan voted with the majority in 92.86% of his fourteen death penalty cases.  Justice Freeman voted with the majority 91.94% of the time during these years.  Justice Heiple did so in 90.48% of his 63 cases.  Justices McMorrow and Nickels each joined the majority in 89.29% of their cases – 25 of 28.  Justice Calvo did so in 88.24%.  Justice Miller voted with the majority in 86.42%.  Justice Clark voted with the majority in 84.31% of his 51 death penalty cases.  Justice Stamos voted with the majority in 10 of his fourteen death penalty cases of these years – 71.43%.  Finally, Justice Harrison voted with the majority in 70.37% of his death penalty decisions from 1990 to 1994.

Next, we turn to the years 1995 through 1999.  For these years, Justice Nickels was most in sync with the Court’s majority in death penalty cases, voting with the majority in 98.59% of his seventy-one cases.  Justice McMorrow voted with the majority in 94.81% of seventy-seven death penalty cases.  Justice Heiple did so 90.91% of the time.  Justice Freeman was in the majority 89.74% of the time.  Justice Miller voted with the majority in 85.9% of his seventy-eight cases.  Justice Harrison did in 81.16% of his sixty-nine cases.  Finally, Justice Bilandic joined the majority in 80.46% of his eight-seven cases.  Justice Rathje voted with the majority in four of his five death penalty cases – 80%.

Join us back here as we review the Court’s voting data for the years 2000 through 2010, when the Court decided its last death penalty case.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Raymond Cunningham (no changes).

Were Majority Opinions in Death Penalty Cases Longer or Shorter When the Court Reversed?

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.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Bhanu Tadinada (no changes).

Who Wrote the Court’s Majority Opinions in Death Penalty Cases?

For the past two weeks, we’ve been studying death penalty appeals, both here and on the California Supreme Court Review blog.  This week, we turn our attention to the authors of the Court’s majority opinions in death penalty cases.

Once again, we divide the cases into four results: (1) affirmance; (2) partial reversal with sentence affirmed; (3) partial reversal with sentence vacated; and (4) complete reversals.  We report the authors of majority opinions in death penalty affirmances for the years 1990 through 2010, the year of the Court’s last death penalty opinion, in Table 539.  Justice Heiple wrote nineteen majority opinions in death penalty affirmances.  Justice Freeman wrote 17.  Justice Miller wrote 15, and Justices McMorrow and Bilandic wrote 13 apiece.  Justice Harrison wrote eight, Justice Nickels wrote seven, Justice Moran six, Justice Clark five, Justices Karmeier and Fitzgerald four apiece, Justices Rathje, Thomas and Cunningham two each, and Justices Burke, Garman, Stamos, Ryan, Calvo and Ward one each.

In Table 540, we report the majority opinions in partial reversals with sentences affirmed.  Justice Miller wrote five majority opinions in such cases, Justice Harrison wrote three, Justices Stamos and Bilandic two each, and Justices Clark, McMorrow, Garman, Moran, Rathje and Ward wrote one each.

In Table 541, we report the majority opinions in partial reversals with sentences vacated.  Justice Bilandic wrote six majority opinions in such cases.  Justice McMorrow and Justice Freeman wrote four such majorities, Justice Heiple wrote three, Justices Miller, Moran, Nickels and Harrison wrote two apiece, and Justices Clark, Garman, Thomas and Fitzgerald wrote one majority opinion each.

Finally, the Court’s reversals.  Justice McMorrow wrote six majority opinions in reversals.  Justice Freeman wrote five, Justice Nickels four, Justice Fitzgerald three, Justices Miller, Ryan, Heiple, Rathje, Calvo and Harrison two each, and Justices Clark, Stamos, Kilbride and Bilandic wrote one majority opinion each.

Tomorrow we turn our attention to a related question: were majority opinions in death penalty reversals longer or shorter?

Image courtesy of Flickr by Alan Light (no changes).

 

The New Illinois Supreme Court Database – Reviewing the Data

Yesterday, we announced the completion of a substantial expansion to the Illinois Supreme Court’s database.  Today, we review the full list of data points included in the database.

Join us back here tomorrow as we resume our analysis of the Court’s death penalty jurisprudence.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Adam Moss (no changes).

The Illinois Supreme Court Database Expands – 2,871 Cases and 275,000 Data Points

Today, we announce a substantial expansion of the Illinois Supreme Court database.  Matching the expansion earlier this year of the California Supreme Court database, the data on the Illinois Supreme Court has been expanded to include significantly more variables, as well as all the Court’s cases since January 1, 1990.  During that time, the Court has decided 1,352 civil cases and 1,519 criminal cases.  For the first half of our study period from 1990 through 2007, our database includes approximately 100 data points on each case.  From 2008 through 2016 – the period for which all of the Court’s oral arguments are on line -we have approximately 125 data points for each case.

The database now includes the entire time on the Court of every currently sitting Justice, plus many others:

Join us back here tomorrow as review the full list of variables in the new database.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Andrew Magill (no changes).

 

 

Where Did the Illinois Supreme Court’s Death Penalty Cases Arise?

Yesterday, we began reviewing the Court’s county by county distribution of death penalty appeals, beginning in 1994.  Today, we will begin by reviewing the data from 2004 through 2010.

The Court decided only two death penalty appeals each year from 2004 through 2007.  In 2004, the Court decided one case in Cook and one case in Macon County.  In 2005, the Court decided one case each from Boone and Coles counties.  In 2006, the Court decided one case each from St. Clair and Stark counties.  In 2007, the Court decided one death penalty appeal from Cook County and one from Livingston county.  In 2008, the Court’s only death penalty case originated in Cook County.  In 2009, the Court decided three mandatory death penalty appeals – one each from Cook, Du Page and Will counties.  In 2010, the Court decided two death penalty cases from Cook County, one from Du Page county and one from Hancock county.

Now we turn our attention to the Court’s county-by-county reversal rates.

The Court affirmed one hundred percent of death penalty appeals from twenty different counties – Montgomery, Edgar, Jefferson, Clinton, Grundy, Iroquois, Livingston, Randolph, Stark, Coles, Macon, Douglas, Wayne, Macoupin, Winnebago, Stephenson, Bureau, Peoria and Fulton counties.

The Court affirmed 70.8% of the death penalty decisions from Cook County, 60% from Lake County, 64.29% from Du Page County, one quarter from Kankakee, half from Champaign, two thirds from Williamson and St. Clair, zero from Saline County, 75% from Madison County, two thirds from Hancock County, 42.86% from Will County, zero from Boone and Kane Counties, forty percent from Henry County, sixty percent from McLean County, zero from Whiteside and Cumberland counties, half from Mason County, and none from Rock Island County.

Join us back here next Tuesday as we continue our analysis of the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision making.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Adam Jones (no changes).

Where Did the Illinois Supreme Court’s Death Penalty Cases Arise?

This week, we continue our parallel look at automatic death penalty appeals here and over at our sister blog, the California Supreme Court Review.  Last week, we reviewed the Illinois Supreme Court’s year-by-year caseload from 1990 until the death penalty was abolished in this state.  This week, we’re going to take a look at where the cases came from, and determine whether death judgments from any particular county had a noticeably lower (or higher) affirmance rate than judgments from elsewhere.

In Table 533, we report the data for the years 1990 through 1993.  Cook County is far and away the largest single source of death penalty judgments each year.  In 1990, the Court decided thirteen death penalty cases from Cook County.  The Court decided one case from Lake County and one from Du Page.

In 1991, the Court decided seven death penalty appeals from Cook County.  The Court decided one case apiece from Du Page, Kankakee, Champaign, Williamson, Montgomery and Edgar counties.  In 1992, the Court decided thirteen death cases from Cook County.  The court heard one case each from Lake, Jefferson, Clinton, St. Clair, Grundy, Saline, Madison, Iroquois, Livingston and Randolph counties.  In 1993, the Court decided nine death cases from Cook County.  The Court also decided one case each from Montgomery, St. Clair, Macoupin and Winnebago counties.

We report the year-by-year data for the years 1994 through 1996 in Table 533.  In 1994, the Court heard nine death penalty appeals from Cook County, two from Livingston County, and one each from Lake, Du Page, St. Clair, Will, McLean, Cumberland and Mason counties.  In 1995, the Court decided nine death penalty appeals, two each from Du Page, Stephenson and Williamson counties, and one apiece from Will, Mason and Bureau counties.  In 1996, the Court decided ten death penalty appeals from Cook County, and one case each from Du Page, Champaign, Montgomery, Jefferson, Grundy, Madison, Will, Henry, Peoria and Rock Island counties.

In 1997, the Court decided six death penalty cases from Cook County, two cases each from Lake and Henry counties, and one each from Kankakee, Will, McLean and Whiteside counties.  In 1998, the Court decided a dozen death penalty cases from Cook County and one case each from Du Page, Madison, Will, Henry, McLean and Fulton counties.  In 1999, the Court decided only four death penalty appeals from Cook County.  The court heard one case each from Will and Wayne counties.  In 2000, the Court decided nine death penalty cases from Cook County, two cases each from Du Page and St. Clair counties, and one case each from Madison, Hancock, McLean and Douglas counties.  In 2001, the Court decided three death penalty appeals from Cook County and one case each from Du Page, Kankakee, Kane and McLean counties.  In 2002, the Court decided only one death penalty appeal from Cook County, and one each from Du Page, Hancock, Kane and Henry counties.  The following year, the Court decided two death penalty appeals from Cook County and one from Du Page County.

The Court decided only two death penalty appeals each year from 2004 through 2007.  In 2004, the Court decided one case each in Cook and Macon County.  In 2005, the Court decided one case each from Boone and Coles counties.  In 2006, the Court decided one case each from St. Clair and Stark counties.  In 2007, the Court decided one death penalty appeal from Cook County, and one from Livingston county.  In 2008, the Court’s only death penalty case originated in Cook County.  In 2009, the Court decided three mandatory death penalty appeals – one each from Cook, Du Page and Will counties.  In 2010, the Court decided two death penalty cases from Cook County, one from Du Page county and one from Hancock county.

Join us back here tomorrow as we continue our review of the Court’s death penalty appeals.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Kevin Dooley (no changes).

How Often Did the Illinois Supreme Court Reverse Death Penalty Judgments (Part 2)?

Yesterday, we began our comparative review of the Illinois and California Supreme Court’s experience with direct review of death penalty judgments.  Today, we reach the second half of our first analysis – how often did the Illinois Supreme Court reverse death judgments?

In Table 529, we report the reversal rate, divided into three classes – partial reversals where the Court either left the penalty in place or did not, and outright reversals.  In 1997 and 1998, the Court affirmed almost exactly the same fraction of its death penalty cases – 57.14% in 1997, 57.89% in 1998.  In 1997, the Court entered partial reversals vacating the penalty in 42.86% of its death penalty cases.  In 1998, the Court partially reversed leaving the penalty intact in 15.79% of its cases, and reversed outright in another 15.79%, while reversing and vacating the penalty in 10.53% of cases.

In 1999, the Court affirmed half of its death penalty cases.  The Court reversed outright in another third, and reversed in part leaving the penalty intact in 16.67%.  In 2000, as death penalty cases began to get quite rare, the Court affirmed in 64.71% of cases.  The Court partially reversed vacating the penalty and reversed outright in 17.65% of its cases each.  In 2001, the Court affirmed in 42.86% of cases, and reversed in part vacating the penalty in another 42.86%.  The Court reversed outright in 14.29%.  In 2002, the Court affirmed and completely reversed in the same forty percent each of the cases.  The Court reversed in part vacating the penalty in another 20%.  In 2003, the Court affirmed all three of the death penalty cases it heard.

In Table 530, we review the total number of death penalty decisions in the closing years of this state’s experience with the death penalty.  The Court decided two death penalty cases each in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.  In 2008, it decided only one, but in 2003, it decided three.  Finally, in 2010, the Court decided the final four cases of its experience with death penalty cases.

We review the reversal rates for these final years below.  In 2004 and 2005, the Court’s two decisions per year were evenly split – one complete affirmance and one complete reversal.  In each year between 2006 and 2008, the Court affirmed outright in every death penalty case.  In 2009, the Court affirmed one third, reversed in part vacating the penalty in another third, and reversed outright in the remaining one third of the cases.  Finally, in 2010, the Court affirmed outright in three of the four death penalty cases, reversing in part while leaving the penalty intact in another case.

Join us at the California Supreme Court Review as we begin our review of that Court’s death penalty experience, and next Tuesday as we continue our exploration of Illinois cases.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Matt Maldre (no changes).

How Often Did the Illinois Supreme Court Reverse Death Penalty Judgments (Part 1)?

This week, we begin a dual project on the Illinois Supreme Court Review and the California Supreme Court Review – comparing the two states’ experience with automatic appeals of death penalty verdicts.

Illinois has had a tumultuous recent history with death penalty verdicts.  Governor George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in 1999, citing concern that the system was condemning the innocent.  Governor Ryan commuted more than 160 death sentences in 2003 to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.  But it wasn’t until 2011 that Governor Pat Quinn finally signed the bill abolishing the death penalty once and for all – making Illinois the 16th state to end the death penalty.

During the era when Illinois had the death penalty, all death sentences were automatically appealed directly to the state Supreme Court.  In Table 526 below, we track the year-by-year number of death sentence opinions handed down by the Supreme Court.  In 1990, the Court decided fifteen death cases.  In 1991, the total was down to 13.  The following year, the number spiked to 23, but the Court then decided 13 in 1993 and 17 in 1994.  In 1995, the Court decided 18 death penalty cases. In 1996, the Court decided twenty cases.

In Table 527, we report the reversal rate for the death penalty cases, divided into three categories: partial reversals with the death penalty left in place; partial reversals with the death penalty reversed; and complete reversals.

In 1990, only 46.67% of death cases resulted in a complete affirmance.  Partial reversals with the death penalty vacated accounted for another 13.33% of the cases, and forty percent of the cases resulted in a complete reversal.  In 1991, 84.62% of cases were completely affirmed.  The Court vacated the penalty in partial reversals for 15.38% of the cases.  In 1992, complete reversals were back down to 56.52% of the cases.  The Court partially reversed leaving the penalty in place in 13.04% of the cases, and partially reversed vacating the penalty in another 17.39%.  The Court reversed outright in 13.04% of the death penalty decisions.

In 1993, the Court affirmed in 69.23% of cases.  The Court partially reversed vacating the penalty in 15.38%, partially reversed leaving the penalty in placed in 7.69%, and completely reversed 7.69% of the time.  In 1994, only 58.82% of the Court’s cases were completely affirmed.  Partial reversals with penalty vacated and complete reversals were tied at 17.65% of the cases apiece.  The Court partially reversed leaving the penalty in place in 5.88% of its decisions.  In 1995, the Court affirmed outright in 72.22% of its death cases.  The Court reversed outright 22.22% of the time, and partially reversed, vacating the penalty, in another 5.56%.  Finally, in 1996, the Court affirmed outright in 55% of cases.  The Court partially reversed affirming the penalty in 20%, partially reversed vacating the penalty 10% of the time, and reversed outright in 15% of cases.

We review the declining number of death penalty opinions for the years 1997 through 2003 in Table 528.  The Court decided fourteen cases in 1997 and nineteen in 1998.  The number dipped to six in 1999 before increasing to 17 in 2000.  From that time through the 2011 abolition, the number of death penalty decisions was down continuously.  IN 2001, the Court decided only seven cases.  In 2002, the Court decided five death penalty cases, and in 2003, only three.

Join us back here tomorrow as we continue our review of the Court’s death penalty jurisprudence.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Kevin Dooley (no changes).

 

Tracking the Importance of Recusals in Criminal Cases (Part 2)

Yesterday, we began our review of the Court’s experience with recusals in criminal cases.  Today, we conclude our review with a look at the most recent years.

First, let’s look at the importance of recusals in criminal cases for the years 2006 through 2011 – how often did recusals end up with the prevailing party having only four votes – the Constitutional minimum?  In 2006, the prevailing party had six votes in six criminal recusal cases.  Twice, the winner had five votes, and three times, four votes.  In 2007, recusals had little impact – all three times, the winner had six votes.  There were no recusals in criminal cases in 2008.  In 2009, the winning party had six votes in the only criminal recusal.  In 2010, the winning party had six votes three times, and four votes once.  Finally, in 2011, the prevailing party had six votes three times.

Recusals in criminal cases have been extremely rare in recent years.  In 2012, there was only one – Justice Thomas in one case.  In 2013, Justice Burke recused once and Justice Theis once.  There have been no recusals at all in criminal cases since 2013.

In 2012, the prevailing party in the single recusal case had six votes.  In 2013, the prevailing party had six votes in both criminal recusal cases.

Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn to a new topic – the Court’s experience with death penalty cases.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Esther Westerveld (no changes).

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