Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 13 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

the Apprendi majority's characterization of the Arizona sentencing scheme: "A defendant convicted of first-degree murder in Arizona cannot receive a death sentence unless a judge makes the factual determination that a statutory aggravating factor exists. Without that critical finding, the maximum sentence to which the defendant is exposed is life imprisonment, and not the death penalty." 200 Ariz., at 279, 25 P. 3d, at 1151 (quoting Apprendi, 530 U. S., at 538).

After reciting this Court's divergent constructions of Arizona law in Apprendi, the Arizona Supreme Court described how capital sentencing in fact works in the State. The Arizona high court concluded that "the present case is precisely as described in Justice O'Connor's dissent [in Apprendi]— Defendant's death sentence required the judge's factual findings." 200 Ariz., at 279, 25 P. 3d, at 1151. Although it agreed with the Apprendi dissent's reading of Arizona law, the Arizona court understood that it was bound by the Supremacy Clause to apply Walton, which this Court had not overruled. It therefore rejected Ring's constitutional attack on the State's capital murder judicial sentencing system. 200 Ariz., at 280, 25 P. 3d, at 1152.

The court agreed with Ring that the evidence was insufficient to support the aggravating circumstance of depravity, id., at 281-282, 25 P. 3d, at 1153-1154, but it upheld the trial court's finding on the aggravating factor of pecuniary gain. The Arizona Supreme Court then reweighed that remaining factor against the sole mitigating circumstance (Ring's lack of a serious criminal record), and affirmed the death sentence. Id., at 282-284, 25 P. 3d, at 1154-1156.

We granted Ring's petition for a writ of certiorari, 534 U. S. 1103 (2002), to allay uncertainty in the lower courts caused by the manifest tension between Walton and the reasoning of Apprendi. See, e. g., United States v. Promise, 255 F. 3d 150, 159-160 (CA4 2001) (en banc) (calling the continued authority of Walton in light of Apprendi "perplexing"); Hoffman v. Arave, 236 F. 3d 523, 542 (CA9 2001) ("Apprendi may

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