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Appendix A: State Capital Punishment Report Cards
This Appendix contains two-page capital punishment report cards on all 28
capital-sentencing states that reviewed at least one death sentence on direct appeal and
federal habeas corpus during the 1973-1995 study period. For comparison purposes, this
collection of report cards begins with the national composite capital punishment report
card (discussed in the main Report (hereinafter, 'Report') pp. 28-45) and then Table 30,
which compares the rates of capital-sentencing error that were discovered for each state
on state direct appeal, state post-conviction review, and federal habeas corpus, and the
total error and success rates for each state. (For a description of how those rates are
calculated, see Report, pp. 4-5 & notes 39, 40).
Description of Information in State Capital Punishment Report Cards
The state capital punishment report cards collected in this Appendix contain seven
categories of information:
- Capital-sentencing history.
In the 'History' section has information about the years in which four important
capital-sentencing events occurred in each state following the Supreme Court's
invalidation of all preexisting capital statutes and sentences in Furman v. Georgia 'the
state's first death sentence, first direct appeal, first consensual execution and first
- Sentences and executions.
This section of each state capital punishment report card provides information about how
many death sentences were imposed in each state and how many, and what proportion, of
those death sentences were carried out, during the study period.
- Error and success rates.
The third section of the report cards identifies for each state (a) the rates of serious
error discovered at each level of judicial inspection, (b) the overall error rate, meaning
the proportion of capital judgments undergoing judicial inspection that were thrown out
before reaching the end of the inspection process, and, conversely, (c) the overall
success rate, meaning the proportion of capital judgments found after a full complement of
inspections to be free of serious error.
- Length of time of review.
This section reports information for each state on (a) the number of years that elapsed
between the state's first death sentence and its first non-consensual execution (not
necessarily in the same case); (b) the average number of years it took death sentences to
proceed through the three-stage inspection process to execution in the small proportion of
cases in which an execution took place, and (c) the average time from death sentence to
federal habeas corpus reversal in the minority of cases in which reversal occurred at the
third (federal habeas corpus) checkpoint, as opposed to taking place at one of the first
two (state court) checkpoints.
- Capital-sentencing and execution rates.
This part of each report card answers two questions. First, how often did the state impose
death sentences' To answer this question, we consider death sentences per 1,000 homicides,
per 100,000 population, and per 1,000 incarcerated inmates in the jurisdiction. Second,
how often (relative to homicides, population and prison population) did the state execute
offenders' Because we are interested in success and error rates, we consider here only
'non-consensual' executions, i.e., ones that were subjected to full review and found to be
free of serious error.
- Demographic information.
The demographic information reported in this sixth report card category reveals the
population pools against which each state's number of death sentences and executions are
compared to determine the sentencing and execution rates. This part of the report card
also provides bases for distinguishing among states'and thus, potentially, for explaining
variations among states'in terms of the capital-sentence error rates detected on direct
appeal and habeas corpus inspection.
'Average population' is the state's yearly average
population from 1973-1995. 'Average homicides' are the total number of homicides in each
state from 1973-1995 divided by 23, the number of years in our study.
Homicides per population establishes a state's homicide rate. By 'average
homicides/average population,' we mean the average number of homicides per year during the
study period for every 100,000 persons in the jurisdiction, averaged over the state's
population during the study period.
'Average prison admissions' means the average number of persons admitted each year to
the state's prisons during the study period.
'Average prison population' means the jurisdiction's average population over study
We also report here the percentage of each state's population that was nonwhite during
the study period.
- Court factors: the context of state court decision making.
In the state capital punishment report cards, we report four pieces of information about
state courts and judges that may help explain state variations in capital-sentencing
success/error rates, capital-sentencing rates themselves and execution rates. These
figures are most informative when used for comparative purposes.
pressure' index measures the extent to which state judges are subject to electoral
scrutiny and discipline. Although nearly all the state judges in our study are subject to
voter scrutiny at some point if they wish to remain in office, the forms and frequency of
elections differ in ways that are likely to increase or decrease the extent to which
judges are politically at risk as a result of capital outcomes produced in their courts
(meaning, at the trial level, whether the verdict was death or life and, at the appellate
level, whether a death sentence under review was affirmed or reversed). More specifically,
our index considers whether judges initially are elected or appointed, whether judicial
elections are partisan, the length of judges' terms of office, and whether judges'
continuation in office is determined by contested or retention elections. (See Report,
notes 54, 221)
The 'party competition index' is a composite of the vote share of each party in state
gubernatorial and legislative elections from 1968-1996.
Our penultimate ('state court criminal caseload') category reports the yearly average
number of criminal case filings in each jurisdiction from 1985-1994 per 1,000 people in
Finally, we report each state's average annual court-related expenditures during the
fiscal years 1982-1992.
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