Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 14 (2003)

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

Opinion of the Court

professional judgmen[t]," id., at 691, is not whether counsel should have presented a mitigation case. Rather, we focus on whether the investigation supporting counsel's decision not to introduce mitigating evidence of Wiggins' background was itsel f reasonable. Ibid. Cf. Williams v. Taylor, supra, at 415 (O'Connor, J., concurring) (noting counsel's duty to conduct the "requisite, diligent" investigation into his client's background). In assessing counsel's investigation, we must conduct an objective review of their performance, measured for "reasonableness under prevailing professional norms," Strickland, 466 U. S., at 688, which includes a context-dependent consideration of the challenged conduct as seen "from counsel's perspective at the time," id., at 689 ("[E]very effort [must] be made to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight").



The record demonstrates that counsel's investigation drew from three sources. App. 490-491. Counsel arranged for William Stejskal, a psychologist, to conduct a number of tests on petitioner. Stejskal concluded that petitioner had an IQ of 79, had difficulty coping with demanding situations, and exhibited features of a personality disorder. Id., at 44- 45, 349-351. These reports revealed nothing, however, of petitioner's life history. Tr. of Oral Arg. 24-25.

With respect to that history, counsel had available to them the written PSI, which included a one-page account of Wiggins' "personal history" noting his "misery as a youth," quoting his description of his own background as " 'disgusting,' " and observing that he spent most of his life in foster care. App. 20-21. Counsel also "tracked down" records kept by the Baltimore City Department of Social Services (DSS) documenting petitioner's various placements in the State's foster care system. Id., at 490; Lodging of Petitioner. In describing the scope of counsel's investigation into petitioner's


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