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.