Carlie Brucia’s killer to get new sentencing phase of trial

Sarasota County
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Joseph Smith,  who was found guilty of murdering 11-year-old Carlie Brucia in Sarasota in 2004, will get a new sentencing phase of his trial.

Brucia’s abduction was recorded by a security camera in the tragic case that made headlines around the world.

Smith, who is a former auto mechanic, was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and capital sexual battery of Brucia.

In December 2005, a jury recommended death for Smith by a 10-2 vote and also imposed concurrent life terms for the sexual assault and kidnapping convictions.

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Smith must be re-sentenced because of an earlier ruling by the the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s death sentencing system violated the Sixth Amendment, which requires a jury, not a judge to impose a death sentence,  “A jury’s mere recommendation is not enough,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the 2016 ruling.

In its ruling issued Thursday regarding  the  Joseph Smith case, the Florida Supreme Court noted that not all jurors voted in favor of the death sentence.

“… this Court cannot speculate why the two jurors who voted to recommend a sentence of life imprisonment determined that a sentence of death was not the appropriate punishment.  Thus, in line with our post-Hurst precedent,3 we conclude that the Hurst error in Smith’s case was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, we vacate Smith’s sentence of death and remand for a new penalty phase,” wrote the Florida Supreme Court in its ruling.

A date has not been set for the new penalty phase. 

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