Williams v. Stirling (P)

The district court properly granted the defendant’s habeas petition as to a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

In the defendant’s trial for offenses related to the shooting and killing his former girlfriend, defense counsel failed to investigate potentially mitigating evidence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. By counsel’s own admission, their failure to investigate signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – specifically, information that the defendant’s mother consumed alcohol during her pregnancy and evidence that defendant had brain damage – fell below the standard for mitigation investigations. Because there was no recognition of a potential Fetal Alcohol Syndrome diagnosis by trial counsel, there was no further exploration of whether it was a potential mitigating factor.

The post-conviction review court’s determination to the contrary involved both an unreasonable application of the law and an unreasonable determination of the facts. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome evidence could have provided to the jury evidence of an overarching neurological defect that caused Williams’ criminal behavior. Had such evidence been presented, there was a reasonable probability that the jury would have returned a different sentence.


Williams v. Stirling (P), No. 18-2, Jan. 28, 2019. 4th Cir. (Agee) from DSC at Greenville (Childs).

Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published

Tags: , ,

%d bloggers like this: