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Attorneys argue in Sarasota over possible testimony in Delmer Smith trial

SARASOTA -- Attorneys on Tuesday argued over what testimony they will be allowed to elicit during the trial of Delmer Smith III next week in Sarasota.

Smith is accused of several violent home invasion robberies and sexual assaults in 2009.

Up for discussion was the prospective testimony of two Sararsota County Sheriff’s Office deputies who refused to give DNA samples to investigators to rule out DNA found at the scenes.

Defense attorney Marjorie Bender said their refusal will speak to the irregularities of deputies collecting evidence.

Prosecutor Elizabeth Scanlan argued that investigators found DNA belonging to both the victim and Smith and that the DNA was not the only evidence in this case.

As for the testimony of the deputies, Scanlan said a lack of a DNA sample from the two deputies “does not go to any material fact in this case,” and would not add anything other than their opinion.

Detective Mike Dumer of the sheriff’s office was questioned by both attorneys about how the crime scene was preserved and the procedure of DNA collection.

In order to avoid the jury hearing about charges that are unrelated to this case, Scanlan asked Judge Rochelle Curley not to allow a line of questioning of Smith’s ex-girlfriend about their break-up.

Testimony was set to continue following a midday recess.

Among those in the court room was Diane Brinker, the sister of Kathleen Briles, who Smith is accused of killing in Manatee County.

“He is heartless,” Brinker said, who wore a shirt with her sister’s name and photo of her on the back. “They need to bring back the chair for what this man did.”

Smith is a suspect in as many as 11 home invasion robberies and sexual assaults in Manatee and Sarasota counties, including Brile's death on Aug. 3, 2009. He could be sentenced to death if convicted of first-degree murder in a trial now set to start next year.

DNA was key to investigators' efforts to connect Smith with the crimes in late 2009. He was charged with several crimes after DNA recovered from crime scenes was matched with a sample provided by Smith while he was in federal prison on a bank robbery charges.

But a then-backlog in uploading DNA information from prison into a FBI database had prevented an earlier identification.