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Justice Delayed? Time Consumption in Capital Appeals: A Multistate Study

NCJ Number
Date Published
56 pages
This study focused on the time taken to process direct appeals of capital cases in 14 States: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
For each State, every capital case resolved on direct appeal by the court of last resort (COLR) between January 1, 1992 and December 31, 2002 was examined. This generated a database of 1,676 cases. Measuring from date of death sentence, it took a median 966 days to complete direct appeals. Petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court added 188 days where certiorari was denied, and a median 250 days where certiorari was granted and the issues were decided on the merits. Virginia is the most efficient of all States in the study, with a median processing time from sentence to COLR ruling of 295 days. Measuring from notice of appeal to COLR decision, Georgia, at 297 days, is the fastest court of last resort. Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky were the least efficient COLRs, consuming respectively, 1,388, 1,350 and 1,309 days. However, Ohio subsequently reduced its time consumption by 25 percent by eliminating intermediate appeals court review. Median time consumption of capital appeals from notice of appeal to COLR decision was 921 days, far in excess of American Bar Association guidelines, which call for 50 percent of all appeals to be completed in 290 days. Figures, and bibliography

Date Published: January 1, 2007