Wiggins v. Smith

Wiggins v. Smith

539 U.S. 510 (2003)

Facts and Procedural History:

Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death for a 1988 murder, Kevin Wiggins appealed on the basis of ineffective counsel. He believed that his attorney should have revealed his misfortunate childhood in order to receive a better outcome. Although prosecutors argued that this information might not have changed the outcome, Maryland Supreme Court sided with the state. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling for Maryland during an appeal to federal court.

Issues Presented to the Court:

If a criminal defendant’s attorney fails to fully investigate his background and present mitigating evidence at his capital sentencing proceedings, does this mean the defendant had ineffective assistance of counsel??

Outcome of the Case:

In a 7-2 opinion from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, it was held that Wiggin’s attorney’s performance violated the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel.