Ring v. Arizona

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In Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002), the U.S. Supreme Court extended the rule of Apprendi v. New Jersey, which established a jury trial requirement to increases in sentencing, to the aggravating circumstances that make a defendant eligible for the death penalty.

Specifically, Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the Court, overturned Walton v. Arizona, 697 U.S. 639 (1990), in part and held that "[c]apital defendants, no less than noncapital defendants, we conclude, are entitled to a jury determination of any fact on which the legislature conditions an increase in their maximum punishment."

Justice Antonin Scalia concurred separately, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, despite their reluctance to impose additional burdens on states that impose the death penalty:

"Accordingly, whether or not the States have been erroneously coerced into the adoption of "aggravating factors," wherever those factors exist they must be subject to the usual requirements of the common law, and to the requirement enshrined in our Constitution, in criminal cases: they must be found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.