Convicted killer faces possible death sentence Tuesday in Manatee County

jdeleon@bradenton.comMay 27, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Convicted killer Delmer Smith will be back in a Manatee County courtroom where he will be sentenced Tuesday in the death of Kathleen Briles.

A jury unanimously recommended the death penalty when Smith, 41, was convicted of first-degree murder for Briles' death Aug. 2, 2012.

Briles was beaten to death in her Terra Ceia home Aug. 3, 2009.

Judge Peter Dubensky will rule on Smith's fate at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Smith appeared before Dubensky at a "Spencer hearing" in April where the defense tried to persuade him to grant Smith life in prison without parole rather than the death penalty. The defense claimed abnormalities in Smith's brain affected his decision-making and made him less responsible for his crimes.

Defense witness Ruben Gur, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, presented Smith's test results from magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography, a nuclear medical imaging technique that produces a three-dimensional image of functional processes in body scans.

Gur said the abnormalities in Smith's scans were consistent with a brain injury. He said the abnormalities could cause him to overreact in stressful situations.

Smith did fall off a motorcycle July 10, 2009 -- a month before murdering Briles -- but was wearing a helmet at the time.

The prosecution insisted Smith was competent and urged Dubensky to go with the jury recommendation.

Dr. Helen Mayberg, a professor of psychiatr and neurology at Emory University, testified she found nothing abnormal with Smith's scans. She said she found a small lesion that could have been caused by Smith's high blood pressure.

A third-party radiologist who viewed the scans agreed the tests were normal. Mayberg said brains vary and only 5 percent show distinct similarities if a group of people is studied.

Smith is already serving a life sentence for a home invasion robbery in Sarasota County.

Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.

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