Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 28 (2003)

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

Opinion of the Court

than death.' " Ibid. See also Ball v. State, 347 Md. 156, 172-173, 699 A. 2d 1170, 1177 (1997) (noting that the trial judge had admitted Selvog's social history report on the defendant). While the dissent dismisses the contents of the social history report, calling Wiggins a "liar" and his claims of sexual abuse "uncorroborated gossip," post, at 554, 555, Maryland appears to consider this type of evidence relevant at sentencing, see Whittlesey, supra, at 71, 665 A. 2d, at 243 ("The reasons for relaxing the rules of evidence apply with particular force in the death penalty context"). Not even the State contests that Wiggins suffered from the various types of abuse and neglect detailed in the PSI, the DSS records, and Selvog's social history report.

Wiggins' sentencing jury heard only one significant mitigating factor—that Wiggins had no prior convictions. Had the jury been able to place petitioner's excruciating life history on the mitigating side of the scale, there is a reasonable probability that at least one juror would have struck a different balance. Cf. Borchardt v. State, 367 Md. 91, 139-140, 786 A. 2d 631, 660 (2001) (noting that as long as a single juror concludes that mitigating evidence outweighs aggravating evidence, the death penalty cannot be imposed); App. 369 (instructing the jury: "If you unanimously find that the State has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the aggravating circumstance does outweigh the mitigating circumstances, then consider whether death is the appropriate sentence").

Moreover, in contrast to the petitioner in Williams v. Taylor, supra, Wiggins does not have a record of violent conduct that could have been introduced by the State to offset this powerful mitigating narrative. Cf. id., at 418 (Rehnquist, C. J., dissenting) (noting that Williams had savagely beaten an elderly woman, stolen two cars, set fire to a home, stabbed a man during a robbery, and confessed to choking two inmates and breaking a fellow prisoner's jaw). As the Federal District Court found, the mitigating evidence in this case is


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