Williams (defendant) was convicted of murder. The jury recommended life imprisonment but the trial judge imposed the death sentence. The judge explained that he believed the death penalty was the appropriate punishment after he considered information from the Court’s probation department. The sentencing judge went further, citing the brutality of the crime, Williams’ prior burglaries, and facts from the probation report that supported the conclusion that Williams was a “menace to society,” to further explain his ruling that the death penalty was appropriate. None of this information about Williams had been available to the jury. The court of appeals affirmed the conviction and the sentencing. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.