Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 21 (2003)

Page:   Index   Previous  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  Next



Opinion of the Court

Appeals' decision reflected an objectively unreasonable application of Strickland.

In its assessment of the Maryland Court of Appeals' opinion, the dissent apparently does not dispute that if counsel's investigation in this case had consisted exclusively of the PSI and the DSS records, the court's decision would have constituted an unreasonable application of Strickland. See post, at 543-544. Of necessity, then, the dissent's primary contention is that the Maryland Court of Appeals did decide that Wiggins' counsel looked beyond the PSI and the DSS records and that we must therefore defer to that finding under 2254(e)(1). See post, at 544-551. Had the court found that counsel's investigation extended beyond the PSI and the DSS records, the dissent, of course, would be correct that 2254(e) would require that we defer to that finding. But the state court made no such finding.

The dissent bases its conclusion on the Maryland Court of Appeals' statements that " '[c]ounsel were aware that appellant had a most unfortunate childhood,' " and that " 'counsel did investigate and were aware of appellant's background.' " See post, at 540, 545 (quoting Wiggins v. State, supra, at 608, 610, 724 A. 2d, at 15, 16). But the state court's description of how counsel learned of petitioner's childhood speaks for itself. The court explained: "Counsel were aware that appellant had a most unfortunate childhood. Mr. Schlaich had available to him not only the pre-sentence investigation report . . . but also more detailed social service records." See 352 Md., at 608-609, 724 A. 2d, at 15. This construction reflects the state court's understanding that the investigation consisted of the two sources the court mentions. Indeed, when describing counsel's investigation into petitioner's background, the court never so much as implies that counsel uncovered any source other than the PSI and the DSS records. The court's conclusion that counsel were aware of "incidences of . . . sexual abuse" does not suggest otherwise, cf. supra, at 518, because the court assumed that counsel

Page:   Index   Previous  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007