Mannix About Manatee: Nearly four-year ordeal ends with death sentence

May 29, 2013 

It was 1:23 p.m. Tuesday when Delmer Smith III and Kathleen Briles's surviving family heard the words damning him to eternity.

They were read in Courtroom 5A at the Manatee County Judicial Center where the atmosphere was subdued, but the decree struck with absolute finality.

"It is the judgment of this court," Judge Peter Dubensky said solemnly, " ... Defendant Delmer Smith be sentenced to death..."

There was little or no visible reaction in the hushed courtroom.

Not from Smith, a remorseless killer to the end, at the defense table.

Not from Dr. James Briles, his extended family and numerous supporters filling up the courtroom's southeast corner.

They would embrace and shed tears outside later.

Instead, it was as if the sentence was allowed to sink in for those assembled to witness the conclusion of the Briles family's heartbreaking ordeal.

"Delmer Smith be sentenced to death..."

Justice was done.

It had taken almost four years, but justice, alas, was done.

"Justice for Kathleen," Briles said later, holding up a portrait of his murdered wife outside the building.

His family and their loved ones were gathered behind him as he spoke eloquently about his wife, the trauma they'd been subjected to by Smith and his heinous act

that fateful Monday, Aug. 2, 2009, and how the community rallied to their side.

The regret in Briles voice was evident, recalling happier days with Kathleen.

"She was at the point in her life where she could get to enjoy the fruits of her love," he said. "It's such a shame she is not able to appreciate this time."

His words resonated with the family and extended family.

Some kept their emotions hidden behind blank faces or sunglasses.

Others had red-rimmed eyes.

Their pain, revisited on this day of final judgment, was unfathomable.

Yet Briles, for all his heartache, thought of Smith.

"If he'd had true remorse, expressed sadness and apologized, we probably wouldn't be standing here today," he said.

There was never any of that from the defendant, not even as the judge sentenced him to death.

Moments later, Smith rose, spoke with his attorney and, surrounded by Manatee County Sheriff's deputies, was finger printed and ushered out a side exit from Courtroom 5A.

A dead man walking.

It was 1:27 p.m.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Call Vin at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmanni

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