Lower Court Summary:
The Petitioner, Leonard Edward Smith, appeals as of right from the May 21, 2004 and March 2, 2007 orders of the Hamblen County Circuit Court denying his initial and amended petitions for post-conviction relief challenging his 1985 conviction and life sentence for the first degree felony murder of John Pierce, his 1989 conviction for the first degree felony murder of Novella Webb, and his 1995 sentence of death for the murder of Novella Webb. On appeal, the Petitioner claims that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief because defense counsel provided ineffective assistance in both the trial and appellate proceedings related to these convictions and sentences and because multiple other constitutional violations call into question the validity of these convictions and sentences. After a careful and laborious review of the record, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief relative to the Petitioner’s conviction and life sentence for the murder of John Pierce and the Petitioner’s conviction for the murder of Novella Webb, but we reverse the denial of post-conviction relief relative to the Petitioner’s death sentence for the Webb murder and remand for a new sentencing hearing in that case. We do so based upon the conclusion that the post-conviction court erred in denying the Petitioner’s claim that his trial attorneys provided constitutionally ineffective assistance in their investigation and presentation of available evidence in support of their motion to recuse the 1995 resentencing judge.