Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 11 (2000)

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Opinion of the Court

eral most recent offenses to which he had confessed. In comparison, it found that the excluded mitigating evidence— which it characterized as merely indicating "that numerous people, mostly relatives, thought that defendant was nonvio-lent and could cope very well in a structured environment," ibid.—"barely would have altered the profile of this defendant that was presented to the jury," ibid. On this basis, the court concluded that there was no reasonable possibility that the omitted evidence would have affected the jury's sentencing recommendation, and that Williams had failed to demonstrate that his sentencing proceeding was fundamentally unfair.

Federal Habeas Corpus Proceedings

Having exhausted his state remedies, Williams sought a federal writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U. S. C. 2254 (1994 ed. and Supp. III). After reviewing the state habeas hearing transcript and the state courts' findings of fact and conclusions of law, the federal trial judge agreed with the Virginia trial judge: The death sentence was constitutionally infirm.

After noting that the Virginia Supreme Court had not addressed the question whether trial counsel's performance at the sentencing hearing fell below the range of competence demanded of lawyers in criminal cases, the judge began by addressing that issue in detail. He identified five categories of mitigating evidence that counsel had failed to introduce,4

4 "(i) Counsel did not introduce evidence of the Petitioner's background. . . . (ii) Counsel did not introduce evidence that Petitioner was abused by his father. (iii) Counsel did not introduce testimony from correctional officers who were willing to testify that defendant would not pose a danger while incarcerated. Nor did counsel offer prison commendations awarded to Williams for his help in breaking up a prison drug ring and for returning a guard's missing wallet. (iv) Several character witnesses were not called to testify. . . . [T]he testimony of Elliott, a respected CPA in the community, could have been quite important to the jury . . . . (v) Finally, counsel did not introduce evidence that Petitioner

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