For the past few weeks, we’ve been reviewing the death penalty jurisprudence of the Illinois and California Supreme Courts on this blog and the Illinois Supreme Court Review. This week, we’re reviewing the Court’s majority opinions.
In Table 287, we report the data on majority opinions in death penalty affirmances. Justice Chin has written 51 majority opinions in death penalty affirmances. Justice Werdegar has written 44, Justice Kennard 39, Justice Baxter 38, Chief Justice George 36, Justice Corrigan 28, Justice Moreno 25, Justice Brown and Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye 19 each, Justice Mosk 12 and Justice Liu 8. Seven majority opinions have been per curiam. Chief Justice Lucas wrote five majority opinion, Justice Arabian wrote 4, Justice Kruger has written 3 and Justice Cuellar has written two.
We discovered reviewing the Illinois Supreme Court’s experience with death penalty cases that cases in which the death penalty was vacated, whether partial or complete reversals, tended to be shorter than affirmances. The result is the same in California. The Court entirely affirmed in 340 death penalty cases between 1994 and 2017, averaging 76.594 pages. The Court has partially reversed while affirming the sentence in 51 cases, with the majority opinions averaging 77.568 pages. The Court has partially reversed with the sentence vacated in 24 cases, with the majority opinions averaging 62.042 pages. Finally, the Court has entirely reversed in 11 cases. The majority opinions averaged 32.36 pages.
In Table 288, we report the average length of majority opinions Justice-by-Justice in death penalty affirmances. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye wrote the longest opinions, averaging 102.58 pages. Chief Justice George averaged 98.22 pages. Justice Baxter averaged 95.658 pages. Justice Liu has averaged 86.375 pages, Justice Mosk averaged 82.167 pages, Justice Werdegar 79.509, Justice Arabian 76 pages, Justice Moreno 71.32 pages, Justice Corrigan 67.07 pages, Justice Kruger 65 pages, Chief Justice Lucas 64 pages, Justice Kennard 63.64 pages, Justice Chin 62.373 pages, per curiam majority opinions have averaged 58.857 pages, Justice Brown averaged 57.947 pages, and Justice Cuellar has averaged 57.5 pages.
In Table 289, we report the Court’s majority opinions in death penalty cases where it partially reversed while affirming the sentence. Justice Chin has led the Court since 1994, writing the majority opinion in eight such cases. Justice Werdegar has written seven majorities, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Kennard and Baxter wrote six, Justices Moreno and Liu have written four apiece, Chief Justice George wrote three majorities, Justices Brown and Corrigan have written two apiece, and Justices Cuellar and Mosk have written one each. Finally, the Court released one per curiam majority opinion in such a case.
Majority opinions in partial reversals where the sentence was overall averaged almost exactly the same length as affirmances. Justice Cuellar’s single majority opinion was 162 pages long. Chief Justice George averaged 97 pages. Justice Liu averaged 92.5 pages, Justice Kennard 82.33 pages, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye 79.33 pages, Justice Baxter 78.5, Justice Chin 77, Justice Moreno 73.75, Justice Werdegar 73, Justice Brown 63, Justice Corrigan 50.5 pages and Justice Mosk 41 pages. The Court’s sole per curiam opinion in this category was only two pages long.
Join us back here tomorrow as we continue our review of the Court’s death penalty jurisprudence.