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Man Who Raped and Killed 11-Year-Old Girl Might Escape the Death Penalty

A man who murdered an 11-year-old girl in 2004 was sentenced to lethal injection, but he's managed to postpone the execution. Now, thanks to a legal loophole, he might be able to avoid the sentence altogether.

He's getting a new trial. The question is, will things work out differently for him in this case, or will he end up facing the music?

In 2004 in Sarasota, Florida, Joseph Smith committed a depraved and disturbing crime. The 37-year-old man snatched an 11-year-old girl who was walking home from school, then raped and murdered her.

Carlie Brucia was cutting through the car wash parking lot when Smith approached her. They barely exchanged a couple of words before Smith grabbed the girl by the wrist and dragged her away with him. Later, Smith is seen on a bicycle going in the opposite direction, leaving the scene.

Carlie's body was later found in a wooded area behind a church.

Smith had a long history of criminal activity, so some say it was just a matter of time before he crossed that particular line. The unemployed mechanic was a drug addict and had violated parole just before the murder.

Chilling footage of the kidnapping was captured by the CCTV camera of the car wash. The case sparked public outrage, and even resulted in the introduction of a bill known as 'Carlie's Law', a law that would get tougher on sex offenders who violated parole.

Smith was sentenced to death by legal injection, but appeal after appeal has kept him alive for nearly 15 years. Carlie's mother, Susan Schorpan, was frustrated by how slowly the wheels of justice were turning.

“He’s still breathing, and my daughter isn’t. ... He couldn’t be dead fast enough for me,” she said last year in an interview. “I’ve got to wait for appeals?"

Unfortunately, Schorpan never saw justice for her daughter. She passed away in 2017.

Carlie's father, Joe Brucia, is still fighting to have the sentenced carried out on his daughter's killer. But it might not happen.

Laws have changed in Florida since Smith was sentenced in 2005. Now, in matters of the death penalty, the state requires that the jury vote unanimously for the sentence. When Smith was sentenced, only 10 out of 12 jurors voted for the death penalty.

Smith's attorney has been fighting to get the sentenced changed to life in prison, as the prosecuting attorney fought to have the sentence carried out retro-actively. A judge vacated Smith's sentence on Thursday.

Instead of giving him life in prison, Smith will get a new penalty phase trial. A new jury will get to vote on the death penalty, and if it's unanimous, then Smith will have to accept his fate.

If not, then Smith will be sentenced to life in prison. Unlike his victim, however, at least he'll get to live. For Carlie’s father, this would be devastating.

"At this point, this sick individual probably thinks he will never get a needle in his arm," said Mr. Brucia. "I hope that people remember, people have a tendency to forget things in the past… I hope that people can feel the way they felt when this first happened."

Source: Mirror
Photos: Bradenton News, Fox 13

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