Death Penalty Reversed Because Counsel Did Not Conduct "Reasonable" Investigation of Defendant's Childhood History

Wiggins v. Smith, 123 S. Ct. 2527 (2003); 71(50) U.S. Law Week 1798-99 (July 1, 2003)

Under the Sixth Amendment, a criminal defendant is entitled to the "effective assistance" of an attorney.  In a Maryland case, the Supreme Court ruled a capital defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel when his lawyers failed to conduct a "reasonable" investigation of the defendant's childhood history before deciding not to present related mitigation evidence at sentencing.  According to the Court, the attorneys should have pursued childhood privation and abuse leads brought to their attention by the records they reviewed...

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1