Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 8 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 510 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

for days, forcing them to beg for food and to eat paint chips and garbage. Id., at 166a-167a. Mrs. Wiggins' abusive behavior included beating the children for breaking into the kitchen, which she often kept locked. She had sex with men while her children slept in the same bed and, on one occasion, forced petitioner's hand against a hot stove burner—an incident that led to petitioner's hospitalization. Id., at 167a- 171a. At the age of six, the State placed Wiggins in foster care. Petitioner's first and second foster mothers abused him physically, id., at 175a-176a, and, as petitioner explained to Selvog, the father in his second foster home repeatedly molested and raped him. Id., at 176a-179a. At age 16, petitioner ran away from his foster home and began living on the streets. He returned intermittently to additional foster homes, including one in which the foster mother's sons allegedly gang-raped him on more than one occasion. Id., at 190a. After leaving the foster care system, Wiggins entered a Job Corps program and was allegedly sexually abused by his supervisor. Id., at 192a.

During the postconviction proceedings, Schlaich testified that he did not remember retaining a forensic social worker to prepare a social history, even though the State made funds available for that purpose. App. 487-488. He explained that he and Nethercott, well in advance of trial, decided to focus their efforts on " 'retry[ing] the factual case' " and disputing Wiggins' direct responsibility for the murder. Id., at 485-486. In April 1994, at the close of the proceedings, the judge observed from the bench that he could not remember a capital case in which counsel had not compiled a social history of the defendant, explaining, " '[n]ot to do a social history, at least to see what you have got, to me is absolute error. I just—I would be flabbergasted if the Court of Appeals said anything else.' " Id., at 605. In October 1997, however, the trial court denied Wiggins' petition for postconviction relief. The court concluded that "when the decision not to investigate . . . is a matter of trial tactics, there is no


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