Smith v. State

Citation357 S.W.3d 322
PartiesLeonard Edward SMITH v. STATE of Tennessee.
Decision Date31 August 2011
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

357 S.W.3d 322

Leonard Edward SMITH
STATE of Tennessee.

Supreme Court of Tennessee, at Knoxville.

Aug. 31, 2011 Session.1Dec. 19, 2011.

[357 S.W.3d 327]

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Gordon W. Smith, Associate Solicitor General; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; H. Greeley Wells, Jr., District Attorney General, Barry P. Staubus, Deputy District Attorney, for the Appellant, State of Tennessee.

Paul J. Morrow, Jr., Deputy Post–Conviction Defender, and Kelly A. Gleason, Assistant Post–Conviction Defender, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Leonard Edward Smith.

SHARON G. LEE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which CORNELIA A. CLARK, C.J., JANICE M. HOLDER, GARY R. WADE, and WILLIAM C. KOCH, JR., JJ., joined.

In this post-conviction appeal Petitioner Leonard Edward Smith challenges 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 death sentence for the Webb murder. We affirm Smith's conviction and sentence for the Pierce murder, holding that Smith's post-conviction claims in the Pierce case were barred by the statute of limitations and that the statute should not be equitably tolled. We affirm Smith's conviction for the Webb murder, holding that Smith did not demonstrate that he suffered prejudice resulting from his counsel's ineffective assistance in failing to adequately question the potential jurors during voir dire at his 1989 trial in the Webb case regarding their past experiences either as a victim or with a victim of crime. We vacate Smith's death sentence, holding that Smith's counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to adequately investigate and present evidence supporting his motion to recuse the judge at his resentencing hearing, which resulted in a denial of Smith's due process right to a fair trial before an impartial tribunal. We further hold that Smith is entitled to a new hearing on the question of whether he was

[357 S.W.3d 328]

intellectually disabled at the time of the Webb murder because the post-conviction court and the Court of Criminal Appeals applied an incorrect legal standard in determining Smith's functional intelligence quotient (I.Q.) under the principles recently espoused in Coleman v. State, 341 S.W.3d 221, 230 (Tenn.2011).


This case has a long procedural history that includes multiple prior appeals and rulings by this Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals. In 1999, this Court provided the following background:

In 1984 the defendant, Leonard Edward Smith, his friend, David Hartsock, and his girlfriend, Angela O'Quinn, robbed two small grocery stores in rural Sullivan County. Armed with a .32 caliber pistol, Hartsock entered Malone's Grocery alone, while Smith and O'Quinn waited for him outside the store in Smith's car. During the course of the robbery, Hartsock shot and killed John Pierce. The trio left Malone's Grocery and proceeded to [Novella] Webb's store near the Carter–Sullivan County line. Both Smith and Hartsock entered Webb's store. Smith was carrying the gun, and during the robbery, he shot and killed Novella Webb. The victim and her husband owned and operated the store.

[Smith] was charged with two counts of first degree murder for the killings of Pierce and Webb. The offenses were joined for trial, and, at Smith's request, venue for the trial was changed from Sullivan to Hamblen County. Smith was convicted on both counts of first degree felony murder. At the conclusion of the proof, the State withdrew its notice of intent to seek the death penalty with respect to the Pierce murder, and the trial court imposed a life sentence. However, the jury imposed a sentence of death for the Webb murder. On his first direct appeal, this Court affirmed Smith's conviction and life sentence for the killing of Pierce, but reversed Smith's conviction of first degree murder and sentence of death for the Webb murder. Concluding that the offenses should not have been joined for trial and also finding prosecutorial misconduct during final argument, this Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial. State v. Smith, 755 S.W.2d 757 (Tenn.1988) (“ Smith I”).

Smith was re-tried and again convicted of first degree felony murder and sentenced to death for the Webb killing. On the second direct appeal, this Court affirmed the conviction, but again vacated the death sentence, finding that the jury had been improperly allowed to consider the life sentence imposed for the Pierce murder in considering whether or not Smith should be sentenced to death for the Webb murder, and that the felony supporting the conviction of first degree murder had been improperly used to establish the felony murder aggravating circumstance in violation of State v. Middlebrooks, 840 S.W.2d 317 (Tenn.1992). The case was remanded to the trial court for a third sentencing hearing. See State v. Smith, 857 S.W.2d 1 (Tenn.1993) (“ Smith II”).

State v. Smith, 993 S.W.2d 6, 9 (Tenn.1999) (“ Smith IV”) (footnote omitted).

Judge Edgar P. Calhoun, Jr. presided over Smith's first two trials. Before the third trial, he retired, and the case was assigned to Judge Lynn W. Brown. After being assigned the case, Judge Brown sua sponte changed the venue from Hamblen to Johnson County and also denied a defense motion to recuse himself on the ground that he had been the prosecuting attorney in an earlier case in which Smith

[357 S.W.3d 329]

was convicted of robbery and driving under the influence (“DUI”). In a Tenn. R.App. P. 10 appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals held that the trial court erred by changing venue without the defendant's consent and that under the facts as then developed and presented in the record, Judge Brown did not err in refusing to recuse himself. State v. Smith, 906 S.W.2d 6, 10, 11–12 (Tenn.Crim.App.1995) (“ Smith III”). Regarding the recusal issue, the Smith III court further stated that

this issue may be more fully litigated in a direct appeal. If the record is adequately developed so as to establish that the nature of the trial judge's participation in the earlier prosecution deprived the defendant of a fair and impartial arbiter in this case, relief in the way of a new sentencing hearing may be available. This opinion does not foreclose that possibility.

Id. at 12.

At the third sentencing hearing, the State “introduced very little proof regarding the circumstances of the offense.” Smith IV, 993 S.W.2d at 9. The State waived opening statement and introduced the following proof in support of the sole aggravating circumstance 2 relied upon by the State to support a death sentence:

The State's proof consisted of copies of indictments and judgments reflecting that the defendant had been convicted of robbery in Carter County on October 13, 1980, and on February 21, 1985, and that the defendant had been convicted of first degree murder for the killing of John Pierce on March 20, 1985. The reference to the life sentence imposed for the Pierce murder conviction had been redacted from the copy of the judgment passed to the jury. The State also introduced the judgment which established that the defendant had been convicted of the first degree murder of the victim in this case on August 23, 1989. With respect to each of these convictions, the State offered identification testimony to establish that Leonard Edward Smith is the same person who was previously convicted of the robbery and murder offenses.Id. at 10. The State also introduced victim impact testimony from Mrs. Webb's daughter, and then rested its case-in-chief.

The defense called Sullivan County Sheriff Keith Carr, who was the detective in charge of investigating the Webb murder in 1984. Shortly after Smith's arrest, Smith had provided then-Detective Carr a statement recounting his involvement in the Pierce and Webb murders. At the defense's request, Sheriff Carr read the entire statement to the resentencing jury, which provided as follows:

I, Leonard Edward Smith, am giving this statement of my own free will and without any threats or promises being made to me. On Monday, May 21, 1984, I was with my girlfriend Angie O'Quinn and David Hartsock, and, we went and got some liquor and went to a road near the Sullivan—Carter County line. We parked and were just drinking and talking and smoked some joints. While we

[357 S.W.3d 330]

were on that road in my black Ford Pinto which I had painted black because it used to be orange, David said “Get out, I want to talk to you.” He and I got out and walked a ways from the car where Angie couldn't hear us talking and David said, “I can get us a little bit of money here at this store.” He said, “It's the store down at the county line.” I asked him if it was Shorty Malone's and he said, “Yes.” Angie and I drove David down there, and let him off a little ways from the store. I parked on a little paved road beside the store. David had a .32 caliber chrome-plated pistol with him. The pistol was his pistol. I heard several shots fired and just a few seconds later David came running around the store. David jumped into the car and said, “Get the hell out of here, I had to shoot him.” I figured it was Shorty because he ran the store. We drove out the road that goes beside of Malone's Grocery and it dead ends and you can turn left to the Wautauga area, or right back to Sullivan County. We turned onto the Wautauga Highway and drove to what is known as Mountain Road. I asked David if he shot the man, and he said, he shot him one time and the man pulled a gun and started shooting at him. I don't remember if he said what money he got. I drunk some more liquor, and made Angie get out of the car. I started drinking and was just going to drive us out of the mountain. We came out at some store, and I turned left and, drove until I realized I was going to [sic] wrong way, and I pulled it in at Webb's Store to turn. I stopped the car at Webb's and...

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