Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 20 (2003)

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

Opinion of the Court

sented an objectively unreasonable application of our precedent. 2254(d)(1). Moreover, the court's assumption that counsel learned of a major aspect of Wiggins' background, i. e., the sexual abuse, from the DSS records was clearly erroneous. The requirements of 2254(d) thus pose no bar to granting petitioner habeas relief.


In their briefs to this Court, the State and the United States contend that counsel, in fact, conducted a more thorough investigation than the one we have just described. This conclusion, they explain, follows from Schlaich's post-conviction testimony that he knew of the sexual abuse Wiggins suffered, as well as of the hand-burning incident. According to the State and its amicus, the fact that counsel claimed to be aware of this evidence, which was not in the social services records, coupled with Schlaich's statement that he knew what was in "other people's reports," App. 490- 491, suggests that counsel's investigation must have extended beyond the social services records. Tr. of Oral Arg. 31-36; Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 26-27, n. 4; Brief for Respondents 35. Schlaich simply "was not asked to and did not reveal the source of his knowledge" of the abuse. Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 27, n. 4.

In considering this reading of the state postconviction record, we note preliminarily that the Maryland Court of Appeals clearly assumed both that counsel's investigation began and ended with the PSI and the DSS records and that this investigation was sufficient in scope to satisfy Strickland's reasonableness requirement. See Wiggins v. State, 352 Md., at 608, 724 A. 2d, at 15. The court also assumed, erroneously, that the social services records cited incidences of sexual abuse. See id., at 608-609, 724 A. 2d, at 15. Respondents' interpretation of Schlaich's postconviction testimony therefore has no bearing on whether the Maryland Court of


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