HILDWIN V. FLORIDA, 490 U. S. 638 (1989)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hildwin v. Florida, 490 U.S. 638 (1989)

Hildwin v. Florida

No. 88-6066

Decided May 30, 1989

490 U.S. 638


Petitioner Hildwin was convicted of first-degree murder by a Florida jury. Since this crime is punishable by death or life imprisonment, state law requires that a separate sentencing proceeding be conducted, in which a jury makes an advisory recommendation but the court makes the ultimate decision whether to impose a death sentence, which it may impose after finding at least one aggravating factor. The court must make written findings to support its imposition of a death sentence. In Hildwin's case, the jury rendered a unanimous advisory sentence of death, and the judge imposed the death sentence, finding four aggravating circumstances and nothing in mitigation. The State Supreme Court affirmed the sentence, rejecting Hildwin's argument that the sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment because it permits the imposition of death without a specific finding by the jury that sufficient aggravating circumstances exist to qualify the defendant for capital punishment.

Held: The Sixth Amendment does not require that the specific findings authorizing the imposition of the death sentence be made by a jury. Since the Court has held that the Amendment permits a judge to impose a death sentence when the jury recommends life imprisonment, Spaziano v. Florida, 468 U. S. 447, it follows that the Amendment does not forbid the judge to make written findings authorizing the imposition of a death sentence when the jury unanimously makes such a recommendation. There is no Sixth Amendment right to jury sentencing, even where the sentence turns upon specific aggravating circumstances. McMillan v. Pennsylvania, 477 U. S. 79. The existence of an aggravating factor is not an element of the offense, but is a sentencing factor that comes into play only after a defendant has been found guilty.

Certiorari granted; 531 So.2d 124, affirmed.

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