Cite as: 536 U. S. 584 (2002)
Opinion of the Court
Almendarez-Torres v. United States, 523 U. S. 224, 257, n. 2 (1998) (Scalia, J., dissenting)).
The Apprendi dissenters called the Court's distinction of Walton "baffling." 530 U. S., at 538 (opinion of O'Connor, J.). The Court claimed that "the jury makes all of the findings necessary to expose the defendant to a death sentence." Ibid. That, the dissent said, was "demonstrably untrue," for 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." Ibid. Walton, the Apprendi dissenters insisted, if properly followed, would have required the Court to uphold Apprendi's sentence. "If a State can remove from the jury a factual determination that makes the difference between life and death, as Walton holds that it can, it is inconceivable why a State cannot do the same with respect to a factual determination that results in only a 10-year increase in the maximum sentence to which a defendant is exposed." 530 U. S., at 537 (opinion of O'Connor, J.).
The Arizona Supreme Court, as we earlier recounted, see supra, at 595-596, found the Apprendi majority's portrayal of Arizona's capital sentencing law incorrect, and the description in Justice O'Connor's dissent precisely right: "Defendant's death sentence required the judge's factual findings." 200 Ariz., at 279, 25 P. 3d, at 1151. Recognizing that the Arizona court's construction of the State's own law is authoritative, see Mullaney v. Wilbur, 421 U. S. 684, 691 (1975), we are persuaded that Walton, in relevant part, cannot survive the reasoning of Apprendi.
In an effort to reconcile its capital sentencing system with the Sixth Amendment as interpreted by Apprendi, Arizona first restates the Apprendi majority's portrayal of Arizona's system: Ring was convicted of first-degree murder, for which Arizona law specifies "death or life imprisonment" as the
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