Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 18 (2002)

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

Opinion of the Court

terized the finding of aggravating facts falling within the traditional scope of capital sentencing as a choice between a greater and a lesser penalty, not as a process of raising the ceiling of the sentencing range available." 526 U. S., at 251.

Dissenting in Jones, Justice Kennedy questioned the Court's account of Walton. The aggravating factors at issue in Walton, he suggested, were not merely circumstances for consideration by the trial judge in exercising sentencing discretion within a statutory range of penalties. "Under the relevant Arizona statute," Justice Kennedy observed, "Walton could not have been sentenced to death unless the trial judge found at least one of the enumerated aggravating factors. Absent such a finding, the maximum potential punishment provided by law was a term of imprisonment." 526 U. S., at 272 (citation omitted). Jones, Justice Kennedy concluded, cast doubt—needlessly in his view—on the vitality of Walton:

"If it is constitutionally impermissible to allow a judge's finding to increase the maximum punishment for car-jacking by 10 years, it is not clear why a judge's finding may increase the maximum punishment for murder from imprisonment to death. In fact, Walton would appear to have been a better candidate for the Court's new approach than is the instant case." 526 U. S., at 272.

One year after Jones, the Court decided Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U. S. 466 (2000). The defendant-petitioner in that case was convicted of, inter alia, second-degree possession of a firearm, an offense carrying a maximum penalty of ten years under New Jersey law. See id., at 469-470. On the prosecutor's motion, the sentencing judge found by a preponderance of the evidence that Apprendi's crime had been motivated by racial animus. That finding triggered application of New Jersey's "hate crime enhancement," which doubled Apprendi's maximum authorized sentence. The judge sentenced Apprendi to 12 years in prison, 2 years over the maximum that would have applied but for the enhancement.


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