Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 7 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

tion as an issue for appeal. He detailed the mitigation case counsel would have presented had the court granted their bifurcation motion. He explained that they would have introduced psychological reports and expert testimony demonstrating Wiggins' limited intellectual capacities and childlike emotional state on the one hand, and the absence of aggressive patterns in his behavior, his capacity for empathy, and his desire to function in the world on the other. See id., at 349-351. At no point did Schlaich proffer any evidence of petitioner's life history or family background. On October 18, the court instructed the jury on the sentencing task before it, and later that afternoon, the jury returned with a sentence of death. Id., at 409-410. A divided Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed. Wiggins v. State, 324 Md. 551, 597 A. 2d 1359 (1991), cert. denied, 503 U. S. 1007 (1992).


In 1993, Wiggins sought postconviction relief in Baltimore County Circuit Court. With new counsel, he challenged the adequacy of his representation at sentencing, arguing that his attorneys had rendered constitutionally defective assistance by failing to investigate and present mitigating evidence of his dysfunctional background. App. to Pet. for Cert. 132a. To support his claim, petitioner presented testimony by Hans Selvog, a licensed social worker certified as an expert by the court. App. 419. Selvog testified concerning an elaborate social history report he had prepared containing evidence of the severe physical and sexual abuse petitioner suffered at the hands of his mother and while in the care of a series of foster parents. Relying on state social services, medical, and school records, as well as interviews with petitioner and numerous family members, Selvog chronicled petitioner's bleak life history. App. to Pet. for Cert. 163a.

According to Selvog's report, petitioner's mother, a chronic alcoholic, frequently left Wiggins and his siblings home alone

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