Rates of inconsistency in death penalty habeas corpus decisions in select circuits. Click to enlarge.

Inconsistency in the Death Penalty

The final arbiter of most death penalty cases is the US Court of Appeals. This court is organized into twelve geographically-defined circuits around the country, and most cases are decided by randomly-created three-judge panels. These two features open the door to considerable variability in how death penalty appeals are treated, both across circuits and within a given court. That variability poses a problem in light of the Supreme Court's stated concern that the death penalty be administered fairly. In this research project, joint with Deborah Beim and Ben Lauderdale, we study both the degree of inconsistency within each circuit and the substantive impact that inconsistency has on a death row inmate's ultimate fate.