Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 2 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 584 (2002)


tional attack. It then upheld the trial court's finding on the pecuniary gain aggravating factor, reweighed that factor against Ring's lack of a serious criminal record, and affirmed the death sentence.

Held: Walton and Apprendi are irreconcilable; this Court's Sixth Amendment jurisprudence cannot be home to both. Accordingly, Walton is overruled to the extent that it allows a sentencing judge, sitting without a jury, to find an aggravating circumstance necessary for imposition of the death penalty. See 497 U. S., at 647-649. Because Arizona's enumerated aggravating factors operate as "the functional equivalent of an element of a greater offense," Apprendi, 530 U. S., at 494, n. 19, the Sixth Amendment requires that they be found by a jury. Pp. 597-609.

(a) In upholding Arizona's capital sentencing scheme against a charge that it violated the Sixth Amendment, the Walton Court ruled that aggravating factors were not "elements of the offense"; they were "sentencing considerations" guiding the choice between life and death. 497 U. S., at 648. Walton drew support from Cabana v. Bullock, 474 U. S. 376, in which the Court held there was no constitutional bar to an appellate court's finding that a defendant killed, attempted to kill, or intended to kill, as Enmund, supra, required for imposition of the death penalty in felony-murder cases. If the Constitution does not require that the Enmund finding be proved as an element of the capital murder offense or that a jury make that finding, Walton stated, it could not be concluded that a State must denominate aggravating circumstances "elements" of the offense or commit to a jury only, and not to a judge, determination of the existence of such circumstances. 497 U. S., at 649. Subsequently, the Court suggested in Jones that any fact (other than prior conviction) that increases the maximum penalty for a crime must be submitted to a jury, 526 U. S., at 243, n. 6, and distinguished Walton as having characterized the finding of aggravating facts in the context of capital sentencing as a choice between a greater and a lesser penalty, not as a process of raising the sentencing range's ceiling, 526 U. S., at 251. Pp. 597-601.

(b) In Apprendi, the sentencing judge's finding that racial animus motivated the petitioner's weapons offense triggered application of a state "hate crime enhancement" that doubled the maximum authorized sentence. This Court held that the sentence enhancement violated Apprendi's right to a jury determination whether he was guilty of every element of the crime with which he was charged, beyond a reasonable doubt. 530 U. S., at 477. That right attached not only to Apprendi's weapons offense but also to the "hate crime" aggravating circumstance. Id., at 476. The dispositive question, the Court said, is one not of form, but of effect. Id., at 494. If a State makes an increase in a defendant's


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