Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 14 (2002)

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

Opinion of the Court

raise some doubt about Walton."); People v. Kaczmarek, 318 Ill. App. 3d 340, 351-352, 741 N. E. 2d 1131, 1142 (2000) ("[W]hile it appears Apprendi extends greater constitutional protections to noncapital, rather than capital, defendants, the Court has endorsed this precise principle, and we are in no position to secondguess that decision here."). We now reverse the judgment of the Arizona Supreme Court.


Based solely on the jury's verdict finding Ring guilty of first-degree felony murder, the maximum punishment he could have received was life imprisonment. See 200 Ariz., at 279, 25 P. 3d, at 1151 (citing Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-703). This was so because, in Arizona, a "death sentence may not legally be imposed . . . unless at least one aggravating factor is found to exist beyond a reasonable doubt." 200 Ariz., at 279, 25 P. 3d, at 1151 (citing 13-703). The question presented is whether that aggravating factor may be found by the judge, as Arizona law specifies, or whether the Sixth Amendment's jury trial guarantee,3 made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, requires that the aggravating factor determination be entrusted to the jury.4

3 "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a . . . trial, by an impartial jury . . . ."

4 Ring's claim is tightly delineated: He contends only that the Sixth Amendment required jury findings on the aggravating circumstances asserted against him. No aggravating circumstance related to past convictions in his case; Ring therefore does not challenge Almendarez-Torres v. United States, 523 U. S. 224 (1998), which held that the fact of prior conviction may be found by the judge even if it increases the statutory maximum sentence. He makes no Sixth Amendment claim with respect to mitigating circumstances. See Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U. S. 466, 490-491, n. 16 (2000) (noting "the distinction the Court has often recognized between facts in aggravation of punishment and facts in mitigation" (citation omitted)). Nor does he argue that the Sixth Amendment required the jury to make the ultimate determination whether to impose the death penalty. See Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U. S. 242, 252 (1976) (plurality opinion) ("[I]t has never [been] suggested that jury sentencing is constitution-


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