Last week, we reviewed the data for the average wait between the end of briefing in death penalty cases and the oral argument. Today, we’re looking at a related question – does the lag time between briefing and oral argument suggest anything about the ultimate result in the case?
We divide the data into four categories: affirmed (“A” in the table), reversed in part with the penalty affirmed (ARC), reversed in part with the penalty reversed (ARL) and reversed outright (R below). Because the second, third and fourth of these results are comparatively rare, our data should be taken as tentative only – very high (or low) averages for partial or full reversals can be driven in any single year by just one or two cases.
In 1990, ARC partial reversals and outright reversals involved significantly longer lag times than complete affirmances (or ARL partial reversals). The following year, both ARC partial reversals and outright reversals involved longer waits than affirmances; but in 1992, neither did. In 1993, reversals involved a month longer wait than affirmances, and ARC partial reversals involved a far longer wait. In 1995, both ARC and ARL partial reversals involved significantly shorter waits than affirmances. In 1996, ARC partial reversals involved much longer waits than affirmances. In 1997, both ARL partial reversals and outright reversals took longer to reach oral argument, but ARC partial reversals were slightly quicker. In 1998, reversals took nearly four times as long to reach argument as affirmances.
There was no consistent relationship between the lag time and the result between 2000 and 2009 either. In 2000, affirmances took much longer, but in 2001, ARL partial reversals took somewhat longer. In 2002, affirmances took substantially longer than either kind of partial reversal. The same was true in 2003. In 2004, partial reversals reversing the death penalty waited for argument nearly a year longer than affirmances. In 2005, the lag time was almost identical for affirmances and ARC partial reversals. In 2006, affirmances took longer than ARL reversals, but were significantly quicker than ARC reversals. In 2007, that result was flipped – affirmances were quicker than ARL partial reversals, but much quicker than ARC partial reversals. In 2008, full reversals waited the longest, followed by affirmances, then ARC partial reversals and finally, ARL partial reversals. In 2009, ARC partial reversals were a little more than two months slower than affirmances, but the two reversals were far quicker (the result of supplemental briefs filed not long before oral argument).
Once again, between 2010 and 2019, there was no consistent relationship between the lag time from briefing to argument and the case result. In 2010, ARC partial reversals took significantly longer than affirmances. In 2011, both ARC partial reversals and ARL partial reversals were much slower than affirmances. In 2012, ARC partial reversals and outright reversals took much longer than affirmances, but ARL partial reversals were quicker. In 2013, ARC partial reversals took a little over a year longer than affirmances. In 2014, ARL partial reversals took longer than affirmances, ARC partial reversals were about equal to affirmances, and outright reversals were much quicker. In 2015, ARC partial reversals took longer than affirmances but ARL partial reversals were quicker. In 2016, ARL partial reversals were much slower than affirmances, ARC partial reversals were significantly quicker, and outright reversals were about equal to affirmances. In 2017, ARL partial reversals took slightly longer than outright affirmances, but ARC partial reversals were much quicker. In 2018, ARC partial reversals were about a month slower than affirmances and ARL partial reversals were much slower. So far in 2019, full affirmances have waited the longest – 1,003.2 days to 712.67 for ARL partial reversals and 345 for ARC partial reversals.
Join us back here tomorrow as we look at the lag time data for the final step in death penalty cases: the time from oral argument to decision.