State Attorney’s Office asks court to reinstate death sentence in case where 11-year-old Sarasota girl was raped, murdered

Prosecutors Asking for Death Penalty for Joseph Smith

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The State Attorney’s Office is asking the court to reinstate the death sentence against a Sarasota man convicted more than 10 years ago of the rape and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia.

Joseph Smith was convicted of the February 2004 murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia. The case drew national attention after surveillance video showed a man, later identified as Smith, taking Brucia from behind a car wash on Bee Ridge Road.

After days of searching, investigators found her body in a wooded area behind a Sarasota church.

Smith was found guilty in 2006 of abducting, raping and killing her. A jury voted 10-2 to sentence him to death.

In 2016, the United States Supreme Court stuck down Florida’s death penalty sentencing requirements as unconstitutional. State lawmakers passed a new law requiring 10 out of 12 jurors to vote in favor of death. Florida’s Supreme Court struck down that law as unconstitutional. Lawmakers drafted a new sentencing law requiring a unanimous jury vote to put someone to death. In March 2018, Governor Rick Scott signed it into law. Now, hundreds of death row inmates can appeal their sentences, including Smith.

Smith’s death sentence was thrown out because the decision was not unanimous and he’s been granted a new sentencing phase, which was supposed to happen this year.

Now the State Attorney’s Office is asking the court to reinstate the original sentencing, citing other Florida cases where courts reinstated sentences with unanimous convictions by juries where they were other aggravating circumstances. In Smith’s case, the State Attorney’s Office says Smith was convicted and it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the murder while on felony probation.

The State Attorney’s Office cited other reasons the court should reinstate the sentence, including the “incalculable emotional toll on the victim’s family members” and that the murder was “especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel.”

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