Nancy King (Vanderbilt) recently circulated a paper that will interest criminal law folks in general and habeas scholars in particular. In Habeas Litigation in the U.S. District Courts Nancy provides data on the processing of habeas petitions filed in U.S District Courts by state prisoners under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). More specifically, the paper analyzes data drawn from "2384 non-capital cases randomly selected from all non-capital habeas cases filed by state prisoners in federal district court during 2003 and 2004, and 368 capital cases started in 2000, 2001, and 2002 in the 13 districts with the highest volume of capital filings." The sample accounts for "over 60% of the capital habeas filings nationwide." A brief summary of the paper's findings follows:
• Capital cases were filed an average of 7.4 years following state
• Non-capital cases averaged 6.3 years before filing, longer than the average 5 years before AEDPA.
• Of capital cases, 4% were dismissed as time-barred under AEDPA's statute of limitations, compared to 22% of non-capital cases.
• Non-capital cases have averaged 11.5 months in federal court, capital cases have averaged 3.1 years so far (1 in 4 capital cases was still pending in late November 2006).
• Of 1986 non-capital cases completed other than by transfer to another district, only 7 received relief. Courts granted the writ in 33 of the 267 completed capital cases.
• The location of the case had a significant relationship to both processing time and likelihood of relief, after controlling for case-level factors.