Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 3 (2000)

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364

WILLIAMS v. TAYLOR

Syllabus

helping to crack a prison drug ring and for returning a guard's missing wallet, and to discover the testimony of prison officials who described Williams as among the inmates least likely to act violently, dangerously, or provocatively, and of a prison minister that Williams seemed to thrive in a more regimented environment. Although not all of the additional evidence was favorable to Williams, the failure to introduce the comparatively voluminous amount of favorable evidence was not justified by a tactical decision and clearly demonstrates that counsel did not fulfill their ethical obligation to conduct a thorough investigation of Williams' background. Moreover, counsel's unprofessional service prejudiced Williams within Strickland's meaning. The Virginia Supreme Court's prejudice analysis was unreasonable in at least two respects: (1) It was not only "contrary to," but also—inasmuch as it relied on the inapplicable Lockhart exception—an "unreasonable application of," the clear law as established in Strickland; and (2) it failed to evaluate the totality of, and to accord appropriate weight to, the available mitigation evidence. Pp. 391-398.

Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court as to Part II (except as to the footnote), concluding that 2254(d)(1) places a new constraint on the power of a federal habeas court to grant relief to a state prisoner with respect to claims adjudicated on the merits in state court: The habeas writ may issue only if the state-court adjudication (1) "was contrary to," or (2) "involved an unreasonable application of . . ." clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." Pp. 402-413.

(a) Because Williams filed his petition in 1997, his case is not governed by the pre-1996 version of the federal habeas statute, but by the statute as amended by AEDPA. Accordingly, for Williams to obtain federal habeas relief, he must first demonstrate that his case satisfies the condition set by 2254(d)(1). That provision modifies the previously settled rule of independent federal review of state prisoners' habeas petitions in order to curb delays, to prevent "retrials" on federal habeas, and to give effect to state convictions to the extent possible under law. In light of the cardinal principle of statutory construction that courts must give effect, if possible, to every clause and word of a statute, this Court must give independent meaning to both the "contrary to" and "unreasonable application" clauses of 2254(d)(1). Given the commonly understood definitions of "contrary" as "diametrically different," "oppo-site in character or nature," or "mutually opposed," 2254(d)(1)'s first clause must be interpreted to mean that a federal habeas court may grant relief if the state court (1) arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by this Court on a question of law or (2) decides a case differ-

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