Tonya G. Newman


The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants a trial before a jury. Until the Supreme Court decided Ring v. Arizona, however, nine states wholly or partially surrendered a portion of the jury's role to a sentencing judge. Specifically, those states allowed sentencing judges to make factual determinations regarding sentencing considerations by which capital defendants became eligible for the death penalty. The Ring Court halted the use of sentencing considerations to erode the jury's fundamental role in preserving accuracy and fairness of criminal proceedings, holding that the Sixth Amendment requires that a jury make factual findings on all elements, including sentencing considerations. Most courts considering the extent to which the rule in Ring will be available to those capital defendants already sentenced have held that Ring is unavailable to those defendants whose cases have become final. This Comment analyzes Summerlin v. Stewart, the recent Ninth Circuit case now pending before the Supreme Court. The author argues that the Summerlin court correctly held that, as both a substantive and a procedural rule, Ring must apply retroactively on collateral review.