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Florida jury: Execute Carlie Brucia’s killer

Jurors in Florida recommended execution Thursday for a mechanic convicted of abducting and killing an 11-year-old girl in an attack that was taped by a surveillance camera and broadcast worldwide.
Joseph Smith wipes away tears during the
Joseph Smith wipes away tears during Thursday's closing defense arguments in the penalty phase of his trial at the Sarasota County Judicial Center in Sarasota, Fla. Chip Litherland / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jurors recommended the death penalty Thursday for a mechanic convicted of abducting and killing an 11-year-old girl in an attack that was taped by a surveillance camera and broadcast worldwide.

Jurors deliberated five hours before arriving at their recommendation, voting 10-2 for the death penalty for Joseph Smith.

Circuit Judge Andrew Owens ultimately will issue the sentence, as early as next month. Under the law, he must give great weight to the jury’s decision before imposing a sentence of death or life in prison without parole.

Smith, 39, showed no reaction as the recommendation was read. Carlie’s mother, Susan Schorpen, let out deep sobs and hugged friends. Patricia Davis, Smith’s mother, left the courtroom crying.

“I’m overwhelmed. Yes, it’s what I wanted,” Schorpen said. “He may be condemned, but he’s still breathing, and my daughter is not.”

In closing arguments earlier, prosecutor Debra Riva sought the death penalty, saying Smith was clear-headed enough to get rid of evidence and recount his crimes to his brother, which she said showed he was not impaired by a mental disorder or drugs.

‘Under the influence of his urges’
“He chose to prey upon a child for sexual gratification,” Riva said. “... He was under the influence of his urges, not under the influence of a mental disorder.”

Defense attorney Adam Tebrugge argued for a sentence of life in prison without parole, saying it would punish Smith, protect society and provide “a fitting conclusion to this horrific case.”

“The Joe Smith on Feb. 1, 2004, was a man in pain, ravaged by drug abuse and out of control,” Tebrugge said. “The Joe Smith, the drug addict who was out of control, will never exist again because he will be kept away from drugs.”

Carlie’s mother walked out of the courtroom as Tebrugge made his case.

Smith admitted in taped conversations recorded in jail that he used either heroin or cocaine at the time he kidnapped Carlie.

The jury then began considering which sentence to recommend in the case, which became known worldwide because Carlie’s Feb. 1, 2004, abduction from a car wash parking lot was taped by a surveillance camera and broadcast repeatedly.

No statement by defendant before jurors
Also Thursday, Owens decided Smith could not read a statement in front of jurors about his crimes. The judge said the statement could be made in front of jurors only if prosecutors were allowed to cross-examine Smith, something defense attorneys did not want.

Instead, Owens said, the statement could be made during a subsequent hearing when he considers the jury’s recommendation.

of kidnapping, sexual battery and first-degree murder. Carlie’s murder spurred the introduction of federal and state legislation to crack down on probation violators.