Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 26 (2002)

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

Opinion of the Court

For the reasons stated, we hold that Walton and Apprendi are irreconcilable; our Sixth Amendment jurisprudence cannot be home to both. Accordingly, we overrule Walton 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.

* * *

"The guarantees of jury trial in the Federal and State Constitutions reflect a profound judgment about the way in which law should be enforced and justice administered. . . . If the defendant preferred the common-sense judgment of a jury to the more tutored but perhaps less sympathetic reaction of the single judge, he was to have it." Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 155-156 (1968).

The right to trial by jury guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment would be senselessly diminished if it encompassed the factfinding necessary to increase a defendant's sentence by two years, but not the factfinding necessary to put him to death. We hold that the Sixth Amendment applies to both. The judgment of the Arizona Supreme Court is therefore reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.7

It is so ordered.

7 We do not reach the State's assertion that any error was harmless because a pecuniary gain finding was implicit in the jury's guilty verdict. See Neder v. United States, 527 U. S. 1, 25 (1999) (this Court ordinarily leaves it to lower courts to pass on the harmlessness of error in the first instance).


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