Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 27 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

The dissent nevertheless maintains that Wiggins' counsel would not have altered their chosen strategy of focusing exclusively on Wiggins' direct responsibility for the murder. See post, at 553-554. But as we have made clear, counsel were not in a position to make a reasonable strategic choice as to whether to focus on Wiggins' direct responsibility, the sordid details of his life history, or both, because the investigation supporting their choice was unreasonable. See supra, at 524-527. Moreover, as we have noted, see supra, at 526, Wiggins' counsel did not focus solely on Wiggins' direct responsibility. Counsel told the sentencing jury "[y]ou're going to hear that Kevin Wiggins has had a difficult life," App. 72, but never followed up on this suggestion.

We further find that had the jury been confronted with this considerable mitigating evidence, there is a reasonable probability that it would have returned with a different sentence. In reaching this conclusion, we need not, as the dissent suggests, post, at 554-556, make the state-law evidentiary findings that would have been at issue at sentencing. Rather, we evaluate the totality of the evidence—"both that adduced at trial, and the evidence adduced in the habeas proceeding[s]." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U. S., at 397-398 (emphasis added).

In any event, contrary to the dissent's assertion, it appears that Selvog's report may have been admissible under Maryland law. In Whittlesey v. State, 340 Md. 30, 665 A. 2d 223 (1995), the Maryland Court of Appeals vacated a trial court decision excluding, on hearsay grounds, testimony by Selvog himself. The court instructed the trial judge to exercise its discretion to admit "any relevant and reliable mitigating evidence, including hearsay evidence that might not be admissible in the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial." Id., at 73, 665 A. 2d, at 244. This "relaxed standard," the court observed, would provide the factfinder with "the opportunity to consider 'any aspect of a defendant's character or record . . . that the defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence less

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