Carlie Brucia’s father furious that her killer could get off death row


SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – In 2004, the shocking murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia horrified the nation. The Sarasota girl was on her way home when she was kidnapped by Joseph Smith. He raped, strangled and murdered the girl, then dumped her body behind a church.

After a 10-2 jury decision, Smith was sentenced to death. But, a circuit judge has now ruled that Smith can have a new sentencing trial.

This all stems from a recent Supreme Court ruling requiring juries to be unanimous when sentencing someone to death. The high court decided any Florida death row inmate sentenced after 2002 could have a new sentencing trial.

Right now there are 364 inmates on death row, and under this new law, roughly half of them could be eligible for re-sentencing.

Carlie’s father, Joe Brucia, is furious.

“I don’t feel it has anything to do about justice or the law,” said Brucia.

“We’ve been waiting a long time, the family and I, we were looking for some kind of justice and it seems to elude us,” Brucia added.

“They seem indifferent to the victims and their families. They think they can just do these things without affecting people, but it affects people a lot,” Brucia added.

Attorney Derek Byrd, who is not connected to this case, says prosecutors will have a difficult time assembling a case because it happened so long ago. Some witnesses have retired and Carlie’s mother, Susan Schorpen, recently died.

“Having a unanimous verdict on a death penalty, like a 12 to nothing unanimous verdict, that’s a pretty tall order. That doesn’t happen very often, even in egregious cases,” explained Byrd.

Joe Brucia does not want this to happen.

“[Joseph Smith] does not deserve to live on the taxpayer’s expense any longer,” said Brucia.

“I don’t understand why we have such great concern and such money over an individual that could torture, rape and murder a child. It’s baffling, really,” he added.

Joe Brucia and his family are writing letters, asking the governor and the attorney general to step in.

“I want to reinstate the death penalty. I want them to use the weight of the attorney general’s office and their resources and do the right thing, do what the state of Florida promised my family and I, and that is to put Joseph Smith to death,” said Brucia.

Joseph Smith’s new trial date has not been scheduled yet.

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