Manatee jury recommends death for Delmer Smith for murder of Kathleen Briles

6:54 PM, Aug 14, 2012   |    comments
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Bradenton, Florida - A Manatee County jury of six men and six women decided unanimously, 12-0, that Delmer Smith deserves death by lethal injection for the August 2009 murder of Kathleen Briles. 

"It's justice for Kathleen," says Dr. James Briles, Kathleen's widower.

The judge gave Smith, 41, one last chance to take the stand in his own defense to try and save his life, and just as he did in the trial, he said no. 

The jury gave its recommendation and the judge has the final decision. He can overturn it and sentence Smith to life in prison without parole.

Defense attorneys tried to prove Smith's criminal history is as a result of his environment growing up. "There's a human being sitting at the table next to me; a human being that's capable of loving, capable of caring," says Bjorn Brunvand, the defense attorney.

It was a kinder, more loving side of Smith that defense attorneys tried to portray, with a goal of saving his life. 

Smith's niece spoke of his jail house phone calls to his family. "He'd always ask how we are doing and told us to stay out of trouble," says Christina Smith, Delmer's niece.

Jurors learned it is Smith that does not stay out of trouble. He served 14 years in a federal prison for Armed Bank Robbery in Michigan. While on probation for that crime, Smith broke into Nicole Mitchell's Sarasota home in March 2009, which left him serving life for Home Burglary and Kidnapping.

Mitchell testified, "He told me to stop screaming. 'I have a gun I will kill you if you don't cooperate.'"

That August, Smith committed the crime that he now faces the death penalty for. He broke into 48-year-old Kathleen Briles' home, gagged and tied her with duct tape, and then beat her to death with a sewing machine. 

Kathleen's widower, Dr. James Briles, shared his grief and loss.

"My heart is broken; my love lost. These are not reparable. Our hardworking dreams are shattered; never to be enjoyed.  My spirit, my resolve weakened, my faith shaken. I sometimes feel lost."

Defense attorneys say Smiths' criminal history is a product of his upbringing and mental issues.  "My opinion is he has unequivocal brain damage," says psychologist Hyman Eisenstein.

A psychologist for the defense, Hyman Eisenstein, says Smith is a victim of physical and emotional abuse.  He says Smith's learning disability and extremely low IQ held him back five years in school, and he never received treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder. Eisenstein says never treating Smith's lack of impulse control issues "plagued his entire life."

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Wade Myers says, "I find no evidence at all of brain damage."

Wade is a state witness and he says his evaluation of Smith last week shows Smith as a functioning member of society in 2009. Wade says, "He was functioning adequately without problems in life; reading, working, exercising, communicating, conducting business..."

Smith is also a suspect in another unsolved murder, two rapes and as many as 10 home burglaries. 

Briles says those victims will probably never have their day in court. He hopes this murder conviction and death sentence for Smith will be justice for them too.

Isabel Mascarenas

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