Smith v. State, No. SC13–1550.

CourtFlorida Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
PartiesDelmer SMITH, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Decision Date09 July 2015
Docket NumberNo. SC13–1550.

170 So.3d 745

Delmer SMITH, Appellant
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

No. SC13–1550.

Supreme Court of Florida.

July 9, 2015.


170 So.3d 749

Howard L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Julius Joseph Aulisio, Assistant Public Defender, Tenth Judicial Circuit, Bartow, FL, for Appellant.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL; and Carol Marie Dittmar, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, FL, for Appellee.

Opinion

PER CURIAM.

Delmer Smith, who was thirty-eight years old at the time of the crime, was convicted of the August 3, 2009, first-degree murder of Kathleen Briles, which occurred during a home invasion and robbery. In this proceeding, Smith appeals his conviction and the sentence of death that the trial court imposed for this murder. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we affirm Smith's conviction for first-degree murder and his sentence of death.

FACTS

On the afternoon of August 3, 2009, Kathleen Briles was accosted outside of

170 So.3d 750

her home in Manatee County, after returning from grocery shopping. Briles was then dragged inside her home, where she was bound, gagged, and beaten to death with her own antique twenty-three-pound cast iron sewing machine. Numerous items were stolen from the home.

The victim's husband, Dr. James Briles, returned home at about 7:30 p.m., after completing his rounds at the hospital, and found his deceased wife. When he first arrived, he noticed that his wife's car was not parked in its usual spot closest to their home and that all of the lights inside the home were off. After turning on the lights, he saw his wife lying facedown on the floor in front of the love seat, her ankles and hands bound with duct tape. The victim had a duct tape gag around her mouth, and she was lying in a pool of blood. Her left jaw and head were deformed, and the antique cast iron sewing machine was on the ground behind her head.

According to Dr. Briles, it appeared as if somebody had gone through their belongings and had closed the window blinds, which were usually open. The furniture was moved around, drawers and doors had been opened, and even their outdoor shed had been breached. Approximately $30,000–$40,000 worth of jewelry was missing, including the victim's wedding band and a diamond baguette necklace that Dr. Briles had purchased for his wife years before. Further, while the victim had been seen wearing a watch earlier that day, she was not wearing a watch when she was discovered. Dr. Briles identified many unique items that were missing from the house, including a rare set of nickels a patient had given him, an old medical encyclopedia that the victim purchased at a yard sale, and a pewter Minnie Mouse keychain produced by Hudson Creek—a company that went out of business years ago.

The victim's purse was found on the front seat of her car, along with a Publix supermarket receipt that indicated the victim had purchased groceries that afternoon. Her groceries, which included frozen and refrigerated items, were still in the trunk of her car. Video surveillance from the Publix store showed the victim leaving the store with a cart full of groceries at 3:36 p.m. that afternoon and her car leaving the parking lot a couple of minutes later. Her house was located only minutes away from the store.

Dr. Wilson Broussard, the medical examiner, performed an autopsy on the victim, which established that she was killed between noon and 8:00 p.m. on August 3. She was bound with duct tape before she was killed and had sustained numerous blows to the back of her head that were consistent with being hit by the antique sewing machine. In particular, she had sustained a significant blow consisting of a single impact on one part of her head, in addition to a minimum of four to five blows to the right side of her head and another four to five blows to another portion of her head. In fact, the victim's skull was so damaged by these blows that brain matter was visible. Further, she had an eyebrow injury and a fractured jaw that could have been caused indirectly when blows to the back of her head caused the front of her head to impact the floor.

In addition to the injuries to her head, the victim had a few abrasions around her shoulders, a bruised elbow that could have been caused by a direct blow or rolling on top of her elbows, and a lacerated liver that was likely caused by a kick or blow to her abdomen. Dr. Broussard testified that based on his review of the victim and the crime scene, the victim was lying facedown on the floor while she was hit multiple times with the sewing machine. The blows caused numerous lacerations to her

170 So.3d 751

scalp, resulting in a large volume of blood found at the crime scene. Dr. Broussard believed that most of the injuries occurred while the victim was alive. However, he was unable to determine how long the victim remained conscious after the first blow to her head. Richard Talbot, the crime scene unit manager with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, also testified that the blood stains found at the crime scene were consistent with the victim being close to the ground when she was struck.

On the day after the murder, Smith picked up a friend, James Cellecz, in his Chevy Blazer, and the two ran some errands together. Afterwards, they stopped at Pawn Stars, a pawn shop. Smith told Cellecz that he wanted to pawn some jewelry he had purchased from a friend but had forgotten his identification, so Smith asked Cellecz if Cellecz could pawn the items for him. One of the items was the diamond baguette necklace that was later identified as belonging to the victim. Cellecz agreed to pawn the items, and they both went into the store together. Cellecz obtained Smith's permission to accept the price he was offered by the pawn store clerk for the necklace. During this trip, Cellecz noticed that Smith had a medical encyclopedia on the floor of his vehicle, which Cellecz thought was odd because Smith did not have any knowledge of medicine.

At trial, Cellecz testified that Smith usually carried a black backpack that contained a ski mask, gloves, and a roll of gray duct tape in it. Cellecz expressly denied breaking into the Briles's home and killing the victim. He further denied collaborating with anybody to frame Smith for the crime.

Smith was arrested on February 11, 2010. Following his arrest, he called Martha Tejeda on multiple occasions, asking her to pick up two duffle bags that were in storage. Tejeda went to the storage shed and retrieved some of Smith's belongings, including a red duffle bag that Smith requested. Before she hid the bag in her attic, she noticed that there was a lock box inside the bag. She also retrieved Smith's vehicle. When the police arrived at her home, she gave them Smith's vehicle, and the next day, she gave them the duffle bag. Inside the bag was a lock box that contained a coin collection in a plastic container, a Minnie Mouse keychain, a gold-colored lock, and a watch—all items that had been stolen from the Briles's home.

At trial, Dr. Briles identified the items from the duffle bag, including the unique coin collection and the uncommon pewter Minnie Mouse keychain, even producing a receipt for the keychain. Attached to the Minnie Mouse keychain were keys to a vehicle that Smith owned. The medical encyclopedia was also recovered, and a fingerprint within the book was matched to Smith. None of the prints within the book matched the Briles or Cellecz. Both Dr. Briles and his son, Dr. Calvin Briles, identified the medical encyclopedia found with Smith's belongings as the one that the Briles had owned.

Michelle Quinones was Smith's girlfriend, and they lived together at the time of the crime. At some point, Smith gave Quinones a set of his vehicle's keys, which were on a Minnie Mouse keychain. Smith also showed Quinones a his-and-her watch set, and she put one of the watches in her jewelry box. Smith moved out in August 2009 and took many of his possessions with him, including a backpack that contained a black hoodie, a black ski mask, screwdrivers, and pliers. Quinones later placed the watch that Smith gave her in a trash bag and called the police to come and pick it up, which an officer did. At trial, she identified the watch that Smith gave her.

170 So.3d 752

The State presented evidence to establish that on 3:44 p.m. on the day of the murder, Smith's cell phone was at a location close to where the murder took place—a fact that was established when Smith's cell phone received a call that went unanswered and records indicated that his cell phone used a cell tower that was 1.24 miles away from the victim's home. This timing was particularly striking because the victim had left Publix at 3:38 p.m. and lived only a few minutes away from the store. Cell phone records further demonstrated that both before and after this time, Smith's cell phone was located close to where Smith lived in Sarasota County. The State also called numerous people who had called Smith's cell phone number or had received a phone call from Smith's cell phone number on the day of the murder. While none of the witnesses could recall specific...

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10 practice notes
  • Truehill v. State, No. SC14–1514
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • February 23, 2017
    ...trial court should grant a motion for mistrial only ‘when an error is so prejudicial as to vitiate the entire trial.’ " Smith v. State , 170 So.3d 745, 757 (Fla. 2015) (quoting Jackson v. State , 25 So.3d 518, 528 (Fla. 2009) ). "[T]his Court reviews a trial court's ruling on a motion for m......
  • Doty v. State, No. SC13–1257.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • July 9, 2015
    ...of the enumerated mitigators because Doty did not submit any evidence to support them. The trial court then found that the aggravators 170 So.3d 745outweighed the mitigation and sentenced Doty to death.Comparing the death sentence in this case to other capital cases, we recognize that this ......
  • Williams v. State, No. SC14–814
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 19, 2017
    ...stated that "[a] court's ruling on a motion for continuance will only be reversed when an abuse of discretion is shown." Smith v. State , 170 So.3d 745, 758 (Fla. 2015) (quoting Snelgrove v. State , 107 So.3d 242, 250 (Fla. 2012) ). As explained in Smith :This standard is generally not met ......
  • Jackson v. Sec'y, CASE NO. 5:13-cv-389-Oc-23PRL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • March 29, 2018
    ...and recognize that "[a] judge's discretion is limited by the rules of evidence and by the principles of stare decisis." Smith v. State, 170 So. 3d 745, 757 (Fla. 2015) (quoting Gregory v. State, 118 So. 3d 770, 780 (Fla. 2013)). In Florida, "evidence of uncharged crimes which are inseparabl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Truehill v. State, No. SC14–1514
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • February 23, 2017
    ...trial court should grant a motion for mistrial only ‘when an error is so prejudicial as to vitiate the entire trial.’ " Smith v. State , 170 So.3d 745, 757 (Fla. 2015) (quoting Jackson v. State , 25 So.3d 518, 528 (Fla. 2009) ). "[T]his Court reviews a trial court's ruling on a motion for m......
  • Doty v. State, No. SC13–1257.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • July 9, 2015
    ...of the enumerated mitigators because Doty did not submit any evidence to support them. The trial court then found that the aggravators 170 So.3d 745outweighed the mitigation and sentenced Doty to death.Comparing the death sentence in this case to other capital cases, we recognize that this ......
  • Williams v. State, No. SC14–814
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 19, 2017
    ...stated that "[a] court's ruling on a motion for continuance will only be reversed when an abuse of discretion is shown." Smith v. State , 170 So.3d 745, 758 (Fla. 2015) (quoting Snelgrove v. State , 107 So.3d 242, 250 (Fla. 2012) ). As explained in Smith :This standard is generally not met ......
  • Jackson v. Sec'y, CASE NO. 5:13-cv-389-Oc-23PRL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • March 29, 2018
    ...and recognize that "[a] judge's discretion is limited by the rules of evidence and by the principles of stare decisis." Smith v. State, 170 So. 3d 745, 757 (Fla. 2015) (quoting Gregory v. State, 118 So. 3d 770, 780 (Fla. 2013)). In Florida, "evidence of uncharged crimes which are inseparabl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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