BRADENTON -- Convicted killer Delmer Smith is scheduled learn his fate May 28 for the bludgeoning murder of Terra Ceia resident Kathleen Briles in 2009.
Manatee County Judge Peter Dubensky set the sentencing date after Smith's defense and the state presented medical experts Friday who testified about Smith's brain during a roughly six-hour hearing in courtroom 5A of the Manatee County Judicial Center.
In August 2012, Smith was found guilty by jury of murdering Briles and the jury later recommended death.
Kathleen Briles' husband, Dr. James Briles, was in the courtroom Friday along with many family members, including his sister-in-law, Diane Brinker.
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"I expect he will be sentenced to death row," Dr. Briles said of Smith after hearing the testimony. "He will probably outlive me. The point is that a death sentence is the proper punishment for what he has done."
"I can't wait for the 28th," Brinker said. "As long as Delmer Smith is alive, there is a chance he could break out and do this to someone else."
Two witnesses for the defense, psychologist Dr. Ruben Gur and neuropsychologist Dr. Hyman Eisenstein, told the judge that Smith's brain was abnormal and made him overreact in stressful situations.
Dr. Helen S. Mayberg, a professor of psychiatry and neurology, was the lone witness for the state and she testified that she found Smith's brain to be normal.
Gur said under oath that significant abnormalities in Smith's frontal lobe, seen in MRIs and PET scans, could have been caused by a brain injury.
Wearing a helmet at the time, Smith did fall off a motorcycle on July 10, 2009, a little less than a month before Briles' murder.
"I think it is generally worse on the right side but it is
bilateral in many areas," Gur said of Smith's brain damage.
Dubensky also questioned Gur.
"Is there any way to predict that a certain amount of frontal lobe damage is responsible for a certain degree of abnormal behavior?" Dubensky asked Gur.
"I don't think the field is there yet," Gur said.
Gur, however, did affirm that correlation or causation has been established between frontal lobe damage and psychopathic behavior through his own studies.
Eisenstein testified that because his brain has been injured, Smith does well in highly structured environments, like jail, but reacts inappropriately out of jail.
"He can have meltdowns," Eisenstein said of Smith. "I concluded he had unequivocal brain damage."
Mayberg, however, said she reviewed Smith's PET scans and MRI results and found them to be "very normal."
She said she saw a small lesion in the white matter toward the front lobe of Smith's brain that she said could be from Smith's high blood pressure, which at times has been out of control.
"These scans are very sensitive and I didn't see anything to knock me out," Mayberg said.