Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 13 (2000)

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Opinion of Stevens, J.

with the standard of review applicable on habeas appeals provided by 28 U. S. C. 2254(d) (1994 ed., Supp. III), the judge concluded that those errors established that the Virginia Supreme Court's decision "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law" within the meaning of 2254(d)(1).

The Federal Court of Appeals reversed. 163 F. 3d 860 (CA4 1998). It construed 2254(d)(1) as prohibiting the grant of habeas corpus relief unless the state court " 'decided the question by interpreting or applying the relevant precedent in a manner that reasonable jurists would all agree is unreasonable.' " Id., at 865 (quoting Green v. French, 143 F. 3d 865, 870 (CA4 1998)). Applying that standard, it could not say that the Virginia Supreme Court's decision on the prejudice issue was an unreasonable application of the tests developed in either Strickland or Lockhart.6 It explained that the evidence that Williams presented a future danger to society was "simply overwhelming," 163 F. 3d, at 868, it endorsed the Virginia Supreme Court's interpretation of Lockhart, 163 F. 3d, at 869, and it characterized the state court's understanding of the facts in this case as "reasonable," id., at 870.

We granted certiorari, 526 U. S. 1050 (1999), and now reverse.


In 1867, Congress enacted a statute providing that federal courts "shall have power to grant writs of habeas corpus in

preme Court ignored or overlooked the evidence of Williams' difficult childhood and abuse and his limited mental capacity. It is also unreasonable to characterize the additional evidence as coming from 'mostly relatives.' As stated, supra, Bruce Elliott, a respected professional in the community, and several correctional officers offered to testify on Williams behalf." Id., at 476.

6 Like the Virginia Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals assumed, without deciding, that the performance of trial counsel fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. 163 F. 3d, at 867.

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