As reported late last week in the Bradenton Herald, defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand of this office has requested a continuance on behalf of Delmer Smith III in Manatee County’s circuit court. Court convened last week to hear motions seeking MRI and PET scans of Smith, appointment of a medical expert and continuance of Smith’s pre-sentencing hearing. No decisions were made and the matter was set over until October 11.
Smith was previously convicted of first-degree murder and the jury recommended execution. The sentencing judge will take that recommendation into account, in addition to any aggravating or mitigating evidence attorneys for each side will present, before pronouncing sentence. He can opt for a life sentence or the death penalty.
Bruvand has requested a continuance to April 2013 for Smith’s “Spencer hearing,” where the defense can present mitigating evidence to support its position that Smith should not receive the death penalty. According to a Florida Supreme Court decision (in the 1993 case of Spencer v. State), capital cases must have an evidentiary hearing prior to sentencing “to give the defendant, his counsel, and the state the opportunity to be heard.”
Brunvand indicated the defense’s only evidence at the Spencer hearing will be medical in nature. Dr. Ruben Gur of Pennsylvania will not be ready to testify until spring, according to defense attorney Brunvand. Brunvand advised the court Gur is one of only two experts in the U.S. who perform quantitative analysis on certain medical tests for capital cases. Brunvand also advised that he will check with the only other known expert, in California, as well as try to find an alternative. The defense is also waiting for a decision from the Judicial Administrative Commission regarding funds for the scans and expert.
The state did not oppose the defense motions, but expressed concerns about the long continuance.
Smith also faces a pending charge relating to a 2009 Manatee County home invasion. He faces up to life in prison if convicted. Smith is already serving a life sentence after being convicted in another home invasion in Sarasota County.