United States Supreme Court Case #01-488
Ring v. Arizona
- Heard: January 11, 2002
- Decided: June 24, 2002 (7-2)
- Impact: Judges can no longer decide critical sentencing issues.
Ring was convicted of felony murder by his jurors, but they deadlocked on the charge of premeditated murder. Under Arizona state law, Ring could not be sentenced to death. However, at this point the judge must determine if "aggravating circumstances" exist that would allow the death penalty as well as an "mitigating circumstances" that would call for lenancy. The judge ruled that there were enough aggravating circumstances and thus the punishment level was raised, and Ring was sentenced to death.
Ring on appeal, stated that the judge's decision violated the Sixth Amendment. The Arizona Supreme Court turned down his appeal citing the 1990 case of Walton v. Arizona. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruled against the Arizona Supreme Court's decision, setting a barrier between a jury finding of a capital crime and a court's ability to impose capital punishment.