For the past few weeks, we’ve been reviewing the Court’s lag time data from one case benchmark to the next for both civil and criminal cases. In our next several posts, we’ll be looking at the Court’s recent history with death penalty cases. Today, we’re tracking the lag time between the first two steps in a death penalty case: from filing at the Supreme Court of a certified copy of the death judgment to filing of a certified copy of the record on appeal. For these purposes, we’re using the initial filing of the record, disregarding the not infrequent motions and requests for supplemental material.
As shown in the first table, the average wait increased sharply during the 1990s. In 1990, the wait was 483.88 days, but then it went to 848.17 (1991), 670.36 (1992), 946.82 (1993), 995.71 (1994), 1,244.8 (1995), 877 (1996), 1,456.27 (1997), 1,675.54 (1998) and 1,927.33 (1999).
The average went higher during the succeeding ten years. In 2000, the average wait for the record after filing of the judgment was 2,041.47 days. The average remained at close to the same level until the close of the decade: 2,016.36 (2001), 2,064.21 (2002), 2,315 (2003), 2,438.24 (2004), 2,713.63 (2005), 2,423.63 (2006) and 2,205.78 in 2007 before falling to 1,938 days in 2008 and 1,720.33 days in 2009.
However, the courts have made substantial progress bringing the average down in the past ten years. The average was 2,131.5 days in 2010 but fell to 685.19 in 2011. It rose back to 1,411.64 in 2012 and remained high for the next few years: 1,377.42 (2013), 1,186.7 (2014), 802.75 (2015) and 1,413.32 (2016). But in 2017, the average fell to 359.91 days. It was 747.25 in 2018 but has been only 464.6 days so far this year.
Join us back here tomorrow as we review the numbers for the second step in death penalty cases – the average number of days between filing of the record and appointment of direct appeal counsel (or, when the counsel appointment order is filed first, the reverse).
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!