Convicted murderer Delmer Smith will be sentenced May 28

jdeleon@bradenton.comApril 19, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Convicted killer Delmer Smith on May 28 will learn his fate for killing Terra Ceia resident Kathleen Briles.

The sentencing date was set after the completion of a day-long hearing during which a Judge Peter Dubensky heard evidence about Smith's health condition that defense attorneys hope will sway him to spare Smith the death penalty and instead sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Aug. 3, 2009, beating death of Briles in her Terra Ceia home.

Defense psychologist Ruben Gur testified Friday morning that the abnormalities in Smith's brain affect his thinking processes. Possible causes include traumatic brain injury, Gur said during a hearing at the Manatee County courthouse on Friday.

“The thinking is hype active at the resting stage and shuts down when you need to perform a task,” Gur said.

During a "Spencer hearing" Friday, Gur, of the University of Pennsylvania, testified about what he found in MRI and PET scans performed on Smith.

After extensive explanation of the methods used to analyze the scan images taken of Smith’s brain, Gur concluded that the abnormalities shown are consistent with brain injury.

After Gur presented his conclusions, Assistant State Attorney Brian Iten began his cross-examination.

Gur admitted he did not know that Smith complained of headaches and struggled with anxiety while in Manatee jail, both conditions that can be reflected on PET scans.

“It’s not like I can look at a PET scan and say, 'Wow. look out for that person',” Gur said. “In this case I can say the person is vulnerable to risk, but it doesn’t mean it will happen.”

Gur was also questioned on which side of Smith's brain has been affected most by the damage.

“I think it is generally worse on the right side but it is bilateral in many areas,” Gur said.

Dubensky had his questions for the defense’s witness.

“Is there any way to predict with the amount of frontal lobe damage responsible for the degree of abnormal behavior?” Dubensky said.

“I don’t think the field is there yet,” Gur said.

Gur, however, did affirm that correlation or causation has been identified between frontal lobe damage and psychopathic behavior through his own studies.

Smith, 41, was convicted last August of first-degree murder for Briles' death. The jury also unanimously recommended that he be sentenced to death.

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