Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 19 (2003)

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528

WIGGINS v. SMITH

Opinion of the Court

impossible. The Court of Appeals' assumption that the investigation was adequate, ibid., thus reflected an unreasonable application of Strickland. 28 U. S. C. 2254(d)(1). As a result, the court's subsequent deference to counsel's strategic decision not "to present every conceivable mitigation defense," 352 Md., at 610, 724 A. 2d, at 16, despite the fact that counsel based this alleged choice on what we have made clear was an unreasonable investigation, was also objectively unreasonable. As we established in Strickland, "strategic choices made after less than complete investigation are reasonable precisely to the extent that reasonable professional judgments support the limitations on investigation." 466 U. S., at 690-691.

Additionally, the court based its conclusion, in part, on a clear factual error—that the "social service records . . . recorded incidences of . . . sexual abuse." 352 Md., at 608-609, 724 A. 2d, at 15. As the State and the United States now concede, the records contain no mention of sexual abuse, much less of the repeated molestations and rapes of petitioner detailed in the Selvog report. Brief for Respondents 22; Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 26; App. to Pet. for Cert. 175a-179a, 190a. The state court's assumption that the records documented instances of this abuse has been shown to be incorrect by "clear and convincing evidence," 28 U. S. C. 2254(e)(1), and reflects "an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding," 2254(d)(2). This partial reliance on an erroneous factual finding further highlights the unreasonableness of the state court's decision.

The dissent insists that this Court's hands are tied, under 2254(d), "by the state court's factual determinations that Wiggins' trial counsel 'did investigate and were aware of [Wiggins'] background,' " post, at 550. But as we have made clear, the Maryland Court of Appeals' conclusion that the scope of counsel's investigation into petitioner's background met the legal standards set in Strickland repre-

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