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Florida inmate sentenced to death for rape and murder of 11 year-old Carlie Brucia could escape death row under a legal loophole

April 9, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Florida inmate sentenced to death for rape and murder of 11 year-old Carlie Brucia could escape death row under a legal loophole

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Former Death Row inmate Joseph Smith granted new sentencing for rape and murder of 11 year-old Carlie Brucia

An inmate sentenced to death for the 2004 abduction, rape, and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia, was given a new sentencing hearing by Florida’s highest court last week.

Joseph Smith, who is 52 but was 37-years-old at the time he murdered Carlie Brucia, was sentenced to the death by lethal injection, in 2006.

Now, that punishment has been abandoned, because the death row decision wasn’t unanimous, the court stated in its opinion, under a 2016 ruling, according to the Herald-Tribune.

This comes even though Smith was busted on surveillance footage which showed him grabbing the girl by her arm and pulling her away to her ultimate death.

Video from the scene of Brucia’s kidnapping in February 2004, showed Smith approaching  the girl in an isolated area of a parking lot.

The victim was walking home from her friend’s house.

She was staring at the ground when the man approached and grabbed her.

Smith (left) was caught on surveillance video  grabbing 11-year-old Carlie Brucia (right) by the arm and dragging her away to her ultimate death

The two were seen standing there until Smith guided her away by the wrist.

Brucia’s remains were discovered four nights later, on the grounds of Central Church of Christ after she was been raped and killed.

Smith was apprehended and admitted to the horrific crime before her body was discovered.

It was shown throughout his trial that Smith was an unemployed mechanic and convicted drug abuser with a lengthy history, who had recently violated probation and was released before he attacked Brucia.

Since he was placed on death row in March 2006, Smith has repeatedly attempted to appeal his sentence.

He was continuously denied until the Supreme Court of Florida held in 2016’s Hurst v. Florida that “that a unanimous jury recommendation is required before the court may impose a sentence of death.”

That decision applied retroactively to Smith’s case, which concluded in 2011 because it was held to apply to all cases decided after the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Ring vs. Arizona, which asserted that a jury must find aggravating factors for the death penalty to be inflicted.

Brucia’s mother, Susan Schorpen, died at 47-years-old almost one year ago from an heroin overdose.

Florida’s highest court granted Joseph Smith, now 52,  a new sentencing hearing for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Carlie Brucia, 11, 

She was said to have lived a troubled life after her daughter’s murder.

Her death occurred roughly one month after it became apparent Smith might be granted an appeal he had long been hoped for.

At the time of Smith’s original sentencing, Schorpen referred to Smith as an “animal” and revealed how happy she was that he was sentenced to death.

“He’s still breathing, my daughter isn’t. … He couldn’t be dead fast enough for me,” she said, angered that he would first have the usual number of necessary appeals before his sentence would be finalized.

In July, a lower court ordered Smith’s death sentence be dismissed, and another sentencing hearing is scheduled before that decision was upheld on Monday.

Brucia’s father, Joe, who now resides in New York, indicated that his family had been robbed of justice at that point.

The abduction and murder of Carlie Brucia sparked a furious outcry across the country

“Obviously it’s a poor decision. He committed a horrific crime and the state of Florida convicted him and sentenced him to death,” he said to the Herald-Tribune.

“I’m not surprised, just disappointed. I don’t think it’s a system that strives for justice. It’s an outrage. It benefits nobody but attorneys,” Brucia continued. “They will probably spend millions on this case so far… what he needs is to be executed.”

In July, Smith had asked, that Twelfth Circuit Court Judge Charles Roberts immediately implement a life sentence, but that request was rejecting, and the vacating of his sentence was appealed in the Florida Supreme Court.

Because only 10 of the 12 jurors in the man’s sentencing voted for the death penalty rather than life behind bars, the highest court upheld the circuit court’s order, and his sentence has now been vacated.

Smith will have a new jury vote for his penalty for the abduction, rape, and slaying of Brucia.

The case has now been transferred to the lower court to execute that ruling and present Smith with a second sentencing.

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