Reviewing the Justices’ Voting Records in Death Penalty Appeals, 1990-2010 (Part 1)

by Sedgwick LLP

Last week, we discussed the data on how often the Justices of the Court voted with the majority in the Illinois Supreme Court’s death penalty cases between 1990 and 2010 (after which the death penalty was abolished). This week, we review the individual Justices’ votes.

In Table 551, we report the fraction of each Justice’s votes between 1990 and 1994 for affirmance of a death judgment, or partial reversal with the sentence affirmed. Justices Miller and Heiple were the most frequent votes for affirmance during these years, voting to affirm in 72.84% and 72.58% of their cases. Justice Nickels, McMorrow, Bilandic and Cunningham were next, voting to affirm in 64.29%, 64.2%, 62.3% and 62.07% of their death penalty cases. Six Justices voted to affirm outright in less than half of their death penalty cases – Justices Harrison (48.15%); Ward (46.15%); Clark (45.1%); Stamos (42.86%); Calvo (41.18%) and Ryan (35.71%). The Justices comparatively seldom voted to reverse in part with the sentence affirmed. Only Justice Cunningham cast such votes in more than 10% of his cases for the years 1990 through 1994 – 10.34%.

In Table 552, we report the share of each Justice’s votes for reverse in part with the sentence vacated, and outright reversals. Justices Clark and Ryan led the court in partial reversals with sentence vacated – Justice Clark cast such votes in 21.57% of his cases, and Justice Ryan did in 21.43% of his. Justice Calvo cast partial reversals with sentence vacated in 17.65% of his cases, and Justice Cunningham did so 17.24% of the time. Justices Miller and Heiple were the least frequent votes for partial reversal with sentence vacated – Justice Miller voted that way in 9.88% of his cases, and Justice Heiple did in 9.68% of his.

Justice Calvo voted to reverse in 41.18% of his cases. Justice Harrison voted to reverse in 37.04% of his cases. Justices Stamos and Ryan both voted to reverse 35.71% of the time, and Justice Ward voted to reverse in 30.77% of his cases. The least frequent votes to reverse during these first five years were Justice Miller – 9.88% – and Justice Heiple – 9.68%.

In Table 553, we report the affirmance data for the years 1995 through 1999. During these years, Justice Rathje voted to affirm in 80% of his cases. Justice Miller was next, voting to affirm 71.43% of the time. Justice Harrison was the least frequent vote to affirm outright – 46.38%. None of the Justices voted to reverse in part with the sentence affirmed in more than ten percent of their cases. Justice Nickels voted that way 9.86% of the time, and Justices Heiple and Bilandic did so in 9.09% of theirs.

Justice Harrison was the most frequent vote during these years to reverse in part and vacate the judgment – 26.09%. Justice McMorrow voted that way 19.48% of the time, and Justice Freeman did so 16.88% of the time. Justice Nickels voted that way in 15.49% of his cases. Justice Harrison voted to reverse outright in 20.29% of his cases during these years. Justice Rathje did so 20% of the time. Justice Freeman voted to reverse 18.18% of the time, Justice McMorrow did in 15.58% of her cases, and Justice Nickels did 15.49% of the time. The least frequent votes to reverse outright during these years were Justices Miller and Bilandic – 9.09% each.

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

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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