Court Restates Right To Effective Counsel In Capital Cases

2003

In Wiggins v. Smith, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates the death sentence of Kevin Wiggins on the ground that he had ineffective assistance of counsel, in violation of the Sixth Amendment, during the sentencing phase of his trial. The Court bases its ruling on the fact that Wiggins’ background included childhood abuse, as well as mental illness and borderline mental retardation, but defense lawyers did not present such evidence to the jury as mitigating factors that could have prevented the death penalty from being imposed.