Date of Birth: October 29, 1964
Ring, a former Department of Corrections
officer, and his co-defendants James Greenham (also a former
corrections officer), and William Ferguson (a former City of
Phoenix police officer), plotted to rob an armored car. They
executed their plan on November 28, 1994.
The target was a Wells Fargo van, which was
driven by John Magoch. David Moss was the messenger (also known as
a "hopper"), who made the deliveries and pickups from various
businesses throughout the day.
At 1:27 p.m., about halfway through their route,
they stopped at the curb outside the Dillard's store at Arrowhead
Mall. Moss went into the Dillard's store. Magoch, a smoker, opened
the driver's side door of the van to smoke a cigarette.
Ring, an expert marksman, shot Magoch from the
parking lot. Greenham pushed Magoch over, got into the armored
van, and drove it away. Ring and Ferguson followed in separate
The trio met at a church parking lot, where
they transferred the money into Ring's truck. About 6:00 p.m. that
day, a churchgoer called 911 after noticing that the van looked
like one he had seen in a television report earlier that day.
Inside the van, police found Magoch, who was
dead from a fatal gunshot wound to the head. A Wells Fargo
investigator determined that the van had contained a total of
$833,798.12, including $562,877.91 in cash $132,259.60 in coins
was recovered with the van.
Ring was arrested on February 16, 1995. When
police executed a search warrant on his residence, they found,
inside a cabinet in the garage, a green duffel bag, with a nametag
for Timothy S. Ring. Inside the bag, they found "bundles of U.S.
currency" totaling $271,681.
Ring was tried separately from his co-defendants,
and was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit
armed robbery, armed robbery, first-degree burglary and theft.
Convicted: Dec. 6, 1996
Sentenced: Oct. 29, 1997
Especially heinous or depraved
Minimal criminal record
Arizona Department of Corrections "Death Row"
"Profiles of Arizona Death Row Inmates,"
Arizona Attorney General's Office
Ring v. Arizona
Ring v. Arizona,
536 U.S. 584 (2002), is a case in
which the United States Supreme Court applied the rule of
Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466
(2000), to capital sentencing schemes, holding that the
Sixth Amendment requires a jury to find the aggravating factors
necessary for imposing the death penalty. Ring overruled a
portion of Walton v. Arizona, 497
U.S. 639 (1990), that had previously rejected this
Facts of the case
On November 28, 1994, an armored car parked in
front of Arrowhead Mall in Glendale, Arizona, was robbed. The
driver was shot in the head as he exited the van to smoke. One of
the robbers then drove the van to a church in nearby Sun City,
where they made off with $562,000 in cash and $271,000 in personal
checks. An informant tipped the police off to Timothy Ring and two
of his friends, who had recently made expensive purchases such as
a new truck. Police eventually discovered that Ring was the
ringleader of the operation. Ring was later charged with capital
first-degree murder under Arizona law.
The jury eventually convicted Ring of first-degree
murder under a felony murder theory. But Ring could not be
sentenced to death without further findings, and Arizona law
provided that the judge alone would make these findings. After a
sentencing hearing, at which Ring's accomplices testified, the
judge found that two aggravating factors applied: that Ring had
committed the murder in expectation of pecuniary gain, and that he
had committed the murder in an especially heinous, cruel, or
depraved manner. Although he found that Ring had a "minimal"
criminal record, the judge concluded that this did not outweigh
the aggravating factors, and sentenced Ring to death.
By the time Ring's case was decided by the
Arizona Supreme Court, Apprendi v. New Jersey,
530 U.S. 466 (2000), had been
decided. In Apprendi, the Court had held that any fact that
increases the punishment for a crime above the statutory maximum
punishment must be either submitted to a jury and proved beyond a
reasonable doubt or admitted by the defendant. However, in
Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639
(1990), the Court had explicitly ruled that the Sixth
Amendment did not require jury finding of aggravating factors in
Arizona's capital sentencing scheme. As the Arizona Supreme Court
saw it, Apprendi undercut the holding of Walton, yet
Walton was directly controlling precedent from a higher
court on a matter of federal constitutional law. The Arizona Court
had no choice but to affirm Ring's conviction and death sentence.
The U.S. Supreme Court granted Ring's petition for certiorari.
Apprendi applies to capital sentencing schemes
Writing for the majority, Justice Ginsburg
began with an important characterization of Arizona's capital
sentencing scheme. Based solely on the jury's verdict that Ring
was guilty of first-degree murder, the greatest sentence for which
Ring was eligible was life in prison. In order to satisfy the jury-trial
requirement of the Sixth Amendment as interpreted by Apprendi,
additional factfinding was required. Yet in Walton, the
Court had expressly held that Arizona's capital sentencing scheme
was not subject to such a requirement.
This characterization all but dictated the
result. Prior decisions, including Walton, had
distinguished between the "elements" of a crime and "sentencing
factors." The Sixth Amendment required a jury to find elements but
allowed a judge to determine sentencing factors. Under Walton,
the aggravating factors were "sentencing factors" because they
were the modern vehicle by which judges expressed their
traditional sentencing discretion in capital cases. But after
Apprendi, which built on Jones v. United States,
526 U.S. 227 (1999), the relevant
inquiry was "one not of form, but of effect." If a particular fact—whether
it was called an "element" or a "sentencing factor"—exposed the
defendant to a greater punishment, then the Sixth Amendment
required a jury to find it. The Court found no principled basis
for exempting capital cases from Apprendi's general rule.
Noting the disparity between Justice Breyer's
continued rejection of Apprendi and concurrence in Ring,
Justice Scalia added:
While I am, as always, pleased to travel in
Justice Breyer's company, the unfortunate fact is that today's
judgment has nothing to do with jury sentencing. What today's
decision says is that the jury must find the existence of the
fact that an aggravating factor existed. Those States that leave
the ultimate life-or-death decision to the judge may continue to
do so — by requiring a prior jury finding of aggravating factor
in the sentencing phase or, more simply, by placing the
aggravating-factor determination (where it logically belongs
anyway) in the guilt phase.
There is really no way in which Justice
Breyer can travel with the happy band that reaches today's
result unless he says yes to Apprendi. Concisely put, Justice
Breyer is on the wrong flight; he should either get off before
the doors close, or buy a ticket to Apprendi-land.
Justice Breyer argued that jury
sentencing in capital cases was required by the Eighth Amendment.
At the same time he held to his position that jury factfinding of
aggravating factors was not generally required in criminal cases.
Because death is a different punishment, it must have additional
procedural safeguards in order to ensure that it more accurately
reflects both the moral judgment of the community and the
blameworthiness of the individual defendant.
Justice O'Connor argued that the Court's
decision would have serious consequences, opening up a flood of
litigation from death-row inmates and creating uncertainty in the
laws of nine other states that employed either total or partial
judicial factfinding in death sentences.
Ring, Timothy Stuart v.
By: Gregory Blesch & Kathryn Alfisi, Medill
A sheriff's deputy in Maricopa County, Ariz.,
found John Magoch dead in the Wells Fargo armored van that Magoch
drove for a living, his body slumped in the passenger side with a
bullet-hewn hole in his head.
It was evening, Nov. 28, 1994, about four and a
half hours after Magoch's partner reported the van missing from
the Arrowhead Mall in Glendale, Ariz.
Wells Fargo was out more than $800,000 in cash
No one witnessed the robbery or murder, but a
bicyclist reported to police that a white van followed by a red
pickup truck ran a stop sign on the afternoon of the robbery and
An informant led Glendale police to the
girlfriend of a man named James Greenham, and the girlfriend led
police to Greenham's friend, Timothy Ring, who owned a red pickup
Listening to Greenham and Ring's phone calls, police heard the two
discuss plans to disappear "up north" and negotiate payments -
Ring was apparently holding Greenham's share in addition to his
After a detective left his card on Greenham's
door, Greenham made a panicked call to Ring, who then called
another man, William Ferguson, saying: "I don't know what to think
of it. Um, [Greenham's] house is clean. Mine, on the other hand,
contains a very large bag."
Police also issued press releases, hoping news
coverage would make the suspects talk. It worked. After a
broadcast that included a phony witness reenactment with
deliberately botched details, Ring called Ferguson and said, "There
was a couple of incontinuities [sic] to their story?. They showed
a suppressed revolver of all things."
Two days later, police showed up with a search
warrant at Ring's home, where they found a Ruger 1022 rifle
outfitted with a homemade sound suppressor, as well as a duffel
bag with Ring's name on it.
Inside the bag: $271,681 in cash.
Police also found a note in Ring's headboard
with the number $575,995 - with the money in the bag, it was about
the same amount of cash Wells Fargo reported missing - and below
it the word "splits" and the letters "F," "Y" and "T." Police
surmised that "F" was for "Ferguson," "Y" for "Yoda," Greenham's
nickname, and "T," for "Tim."
Based on the accumulation of circumstantial
evidence - no bullet was found, so Ring's Ruger couldn't be tied
to the crime - a jury found Ring guilty of murder, a capital
offense in Arizona.
Under Arizona law, a judge must decide whether
someone convicted of murder gets death or life imprisonment. A
jury alone cannot.
James Greenham, who made a deal with
prosecutors and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed
robbery, testified at Ring's special sentencing hearing. It was
conducted without a jury.
Greenham fingered Ring as the shooter and said
Ring wanted to be congratulated on his shot the day after the
But the jury heard none of this evidence during
the trial. In fact, the jury heard no evidence that identified
Ring as the one who shot Magoch.
Based on Greenham's testimony at the sentencing
hearing, the judge ruled that Ring "is the one who killed Mr.
Magoch" and that he showed "reckless disregard for human life."
Arizona law requires the judge to find beyond a
reasonable doubt at least one aggravating factor in order to
sentence a defendant to die. The judge in Ring's case found two:
that the murder was committed for money and "in an especially
heinous, cruel or depraved manner."
On automatic direct appeal to the Arizona
Supreme Court, the state's highest court affirmed the sentence,
rejecting a clutch of arguments for a new trial. But one argument
in Ring's appeal gave pause to Justice Stanley Feldman, who wrote
The U.S. Supreme Court in two recent cases,
Jones v. U.S. in 1999 and Apprendi v. New Jersey in 2000, seemed
to overrule Walton v. Arizona, a 1990 case that upheld Arizona's
sentencing procedure for capital cases.
Feldman wrote, "While the state is correct in
noting that neither Jones nor Apprendi overruled Walton, we must
acknowledge that both cases raise some question about the
continued viability of Walton."
In Jones, the Court ruled that removing a
jury's control over facts determining the "statutory sentencing
range" would violate the 6th Amendment.
And the Apprendi opinion stated that "any fact
that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed
statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a
The Court in Apprendi went on to say that the
Walton opinion stands because Arizona juries find defendants
guilty of capital offenses before judges determine aggravating
factors and apply the death penalty.
It's a subtle distinction.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had other words for
the reasoning in her dissent: "baffling, to say the least" and "demonstrably
O'Connor wrote: "A defendant convicted of first-degree
murder in Arizona cannot receive a death sentence unless a judge
makes the factual determination that a statutory aggravating
factor exists?. If the court does not intend to overrule Walton,
one would be hard pressed to tell from the opinion it issues today."
Feldman of the Arizona Supreme Court agreed
with O'Connor, noting that the trial judge's determination of
aggravating factors was based solely on evidence presented at the
sentencing hearing and never heard by the jury.
However, because the majority opinion in
Apprendi explicitly said that the Court did not mean to overturn
Walton, Arizona's highest court regarded the law as constitutional
and affirmed Ring's sentence.
On Jan. 11, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court
accepted certiorari in Ring's case. And on Jan. 23, the Court
stayed the execution of Florida death-row inmate Amos King, who
was scheduled to die the next day. Florida's law governing capital
punishment is similar to Arizona's - though in Florida, juries
recommend what they deem the appropriate sentence, and judges make
the final call. Alabama, Indiana and Delaware have laws like
The law in Montana and Idaho is like Arizona's,
and Colorado and Nebraska allow a panel of judges to assign the
death penalty. All told, a broad decision in the Ring case that
holds unconstitutional a sentencing process that allows a judge to
consider aggravating factors not considered by the jury at trial,
could affect about 800 condemned inmates.
Andrew Hurwitz, who represents Ring before the
Supreme Court, said he isn't worried that the Court retained
Walton and upheld the Arizona law in the Apprendi decision less
than two years ago.
"They did what the Supreme Court often does,
which is that they reserved that issue for another day," he said.
"And this is that day."
On June 24, 2002, the Court, by a 7-2 vote,
sided with Ring, holding that the sentences of those who were
sentenced to die by judges not juries cannot stand.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the lead
majority opinion, with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Chief
Justice William Rehnquist dissenting.
At the heart of the Court's decision was the
irreconcilability of the findings in Walton v. Arizona and
Apprendi v. New Jersey.
Ginsburg wrote: "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."
The Court found that Arizona's enumerated
aggravating factors operate as "the functional equivalent of a
greater offense," and that the 6th Amendment required that the
jury be aware of these factors in order to determine appropriate
"Capital defendants, no less than non-capital
defendants, we conclude are entitled to a jury determination of
any fact on which the legislature conditions an increase in their
maximum punishment," Ginsburg wrote.
The jury in Ring found the defendant guilty of
first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of death or life
imprisonment. The Court found that if Apprendi were to be applied
to the case, then "the required finding [of an aggravated
circumstance] expose[d] [Ring] to a greater punishment that
authorized by the jury's guilty verdict."
The Court decided in Apprendi that the "Sixth
Amendment does not permit a defendant to be 'expose[d]? to a
penalty exceeding the maximum he would receive if punished
according to the facts reflected in the jury alone'." This
decision came ten years after the decision in Walton that held
Arizona's sentencing scheme to be compatible with the 6th
The Apprendi ruling won out, to the dismay of
Justice O'Connor, who wrote in a brief but pointed dissent that
she would rather overrule Apprendi than Walton.
"Apprendi's rule that any fact that increases
the maximum penalty must be treated as an element of the crime, is
not required by the Constitution, by history, or by our prior
cases. And it ignores the 'significant history in this country of
? discretionary sentencing by judges,'" she wrote.
The Court's decision in Ring v. Arizona,
O'Connor argued, will only serve to open the floodgates to
convicted defendants wanting to overturn their sentences.
In the states that have sentencing schemes
similar to Arizona's -- Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Nebraska --
there are 168 prisoners on death row. Now that these states'
capital sentencing schemes have effectively been declared
unconstitutional, O'Connor wrote, all 168 prisoners are likely to
challenge their sentencing rulings.
"In addition I fear that the prisoners on death
row in Alabama, Delaware, Florida and Indiana, which the Court
identified as having hybrid sentencing schemes in which the jury
renders an advisory verdict but the judge makes the ultimate
sentencing determination, may also seize on today's decision to
challenge their sentences."
Justice Antonin Scalia was caught between the
majority and the dissenters. While concurring with the Court's
decision, he did so with hesitation over states' use of "aggravating
factors" in imposing the death penalty.
Scalia wrote that the Court "has
mistakenly said that the Constitution requires state law to impose
such 'aggravating factors'."
He went on to write, however, that "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
requirements enshrined in our Constitution, in our criminal cases:
they must be found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt."
Timothy Stuart Ring