Columbia Public Law & Legal Theory Working Papers

The Meaning of Guilt: Rethinking Apprendi

Mohammed S. Wattad, Columbia Law School


This article is driven by analytical, comparative, and theoretical methodologies. I provide my analysis and arguments in two parts. In Part III, I provide informative-analytical studies of three levels: (1) the legal history, including the Supreme Court cases, on which Apprendi was grounded; (2) the Court’s reasoning in Apprendi; and (3) the cases following Apprendi, endeavoring to understand the extent to which Apprendi has been rooted in the American legal system, including the dynamism of the Apprendi ruling in 2000. Addressing these three levels, I criticize the Court’s methodology in approaching the “aggravating element” dilemma, namely the absence of a theoretical basis. In Part IV, undertaking a comparative-theoretical inquiry, I root a constitutional theory of guilt in the Due Process Clause, driven by the right to dignity as a concept of the Equal Protection Clause. This theoretical inquiry grounds my position that the substantive criminal law can violate the Constitution, as well as encompasses my new approach toward solving the “aggravating element” dilemma.