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Brunvand to Represent Smith in Penalty Phase of Manatee Murder Trial

Bjorn Brunvand of the Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand continues to represent Delmer Smith in a Manatee County courtroom this week as the capital murder case against Smith continues. A jury convicted Smith late last week of first-degree murder in the 2009 death of Kathleen Briles. The penalty phase of the trial begins Tuesday. After hearing additional testimony and evidence, the jury will recommend a sentence of death by lethal injection or life in prison.

As reported in the Bradenton Herald over the past several days, the court (outside of the presence of the jury) heard from Mr. Smith, who, at one point, indicated that he wished to dismiss his defense attorneys and represent himself for the remainder of the trial.

In an emergency hearing Friday, Smith asked for new representation and was refusing to speak with the state’s psychiatrist. He ultimately agreed to meet with the psychiatrist as required by the court.

Smith told the judge that he did not agree with some of the decisions his attorneys made in his defense. His attorneys, including Brunvand, advised the court that all of their actions have been in Smith’s best interest. The judge advised Smith that a lack of confidence or differing opinions over strategy is not a basis for the defense being deemed ineffective.

Smith finally advised the court that he did not wish to discharge his attorneys.

When the penalty phase commences, the state advised that it plans to call two witnesses to read prepared victim impact statements, as well as the state’s psychiatrist and a victim of a Sarasota home invasion for which Smith is already serving a life sentence. The defense intends to call its neuropsychologist and Smith’s nieces. Smith may take the stand if he wishes.

Smith has previously indicated that he does not want the defense’s neuropsychologist or his family called to the stand. Brunvand, however, said calling Smith’s family to the stand would show “he is someone capable of caring and someone capable of being loved.”

Brunvand explained Smith’s concerns of presenting the neuropsychologist, noting that the expert witness has had access to Smith’s juvenile records from Michigan. If the neuropsychologist testifies, all documents he has used to form his opinion would be given to the state. (This concern may be moot in that the judge later granted the state’s motion to compel records relied upon by the defense expert regardless of the witness’ testimony.)

The penalty phase of the trial is expected to last one to two days.


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