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Jury selection for Delmer Smith home invasion trial in Sarasota starts after judge rejects delay

SARASOTA -- Jury selection began in the Delmer Smith III home invasion and kidnapping case in Sarasota today, after a judge denied Smith's request for a delay to do more testing of DNA evidence.

Circuit Judge Rochelle Curley ruled that even though the Florida Department of Law Enfercement only tested five of the 10 DNA specimens found at the crime scene in March 2009, the fact that Smith's was a match was enough to continue the trial.

A very attentive observer at Monday's trial was Diane Brinker, a sister of Manatee County's Kathleen Briles, who was killed in 2009 at her Terra Ceia home.

Smith, who is a suspect in as many as 11 violent home invasions in Manatee and Sarasota counties, is scheduled to stand trial for Briles' death on July 16, 2012, in Bradenton.

"It's very important that our family be here, to show that we support the other victims and these crimes are all linked," Brinker said.

Briles was killed on Aug. 3, 2009.

"Kathy and I talked on the phone at 3:11 p.m. on that day," Brinker said. "My sister said, 'Sis, can you stop over and cut my bangs?' She had just gotten her hair done with streaks."

Brinker did cut her sister's bangs and she applied Briles' make-up -- for her funeral.

"My sister was very loving and very eager to help everyone," Brinker said. "She was a free spirit who loved animals. She was very happy, she had found true love with a wonderful man, Dr. (James) Briles."

The Brileses were married 17 years.

Dr. Briles still takes care of his wife's 10 cats and dogs, Brinker said.

It was hard for Brinker, who owns D&D Pub in Palmetto, to sit in the courtroom Monday, 20 feet from the man she believes killed her sister.

"You can't believe the thoughts I am thinking right now," Brinker said, sitting near Smith who was wearing a white dress shirt and red and blue tie.

"But I know the deputies would grab me before I got close to him, and I wouldn't be able to see the rest of this trial. It's all a nightmare I can't wake up from."

In this Sarasota trial, Smith is accused of attacking a woman who survived with minor injuries and will be the first witness after a jury is selected, said prosecutor Beth Scanlan during a break in proceedings.

Although the victim cannot identify Smith by face because her attacker was wearing a mask, she can describe various things about him, Scanlan said.

"Faced with overwhelming evidence, a delay is sometimes the only tactic," Scanlan said when asked to comment on defense attorney Marge Bender's request for a continuance.

Smith told Judge Curley that he had three problems with the case, all related to DNA.

First, why didn't investigators test all 10 specimens found at the crime scene.

Second, how could a drop of sweat containing his DNA, as the state alleges was found, survive 90 minutes after investigators arrived.

And third, why didn't Smith's DNA, which was taken when he was in federal prison for a bank robbery conviction, come up right away in this case.

To bolster his argument, Smith said he had run for an hour in his cell in order to work up a sweat. He said he noticed that the droplets that fell to the floor evaporated after about 30 minutes.

Detectives also said the sweat samples were globular in nature, but Smith said the sweat drops he produced in his jail cell were flat.

The judge told Smith he can bring up all three issues in his defense, but that the trial for the Sarasota home invasion would proceed.

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