Trial Lawyer's Failure to Investigate Defendant's Alleged Childhood Abuse

In Stewart v. State, 801 So. 2d 59 (Fla. 2001), the Court rejected a claim that trial counsel was deficient for failing to investigate and present evidence of the defendant's alleged childhood abuse by his stepfather. Stewart generally described a happy childhood and never informed defense counsel, or the defense psychiatrist, about any abuse he suffered. Further, trial counsel indicated that he personally interviewed Stewart's stepsisters, but neither mentioned that Stewart was abused. Similarly, Stewart's stepfather never led trial counsel to believe anything other than that he was a loving and caring father to Stewart. Accordingly, this Court concluded, "by failing to communicate to defense counsel (or the defense psychiatrist) regarding any instances of childhood abuse, the appellant may not now complain that trial counsel's failure to pursue such mitigation was unreasonable." Id. at 67 (citing Cherry v. State, 781 So. 2d 1040, 1050 (Fla. 2000)).