SARASOTA, FLA— Attorneys for Joseph Smith, sentenced to death in November 2005 for the kidnapping, sexual assault and first degree murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia, are seeking a new trial because they claim that the FBI mishandled DNA evidence.
Eleven-year-old Carlie Brucia was kidnapped Feb. 1, 2004, in Sarasota as she was walking home from a friend’s house. The abduction was captured on videotape by a car wash security camera, showing 39-year-old Joseph Smith, a mechanic, confronting her. Her partially naked body was found four days later near a church. The video was broadcast worldwide and led to Smith’s arrest when family members and friends recognized him.
Smith’s DNA was found on a semen stain on the girl’s red shirt and his attorneys are challenging how the lab tests were conducted. During the 2005 trial, Smith’s defense attorney had questioned why local evidence technicians had not found DNA evidence on the shirt before the shirt was sent to the FBI crime lab where DNA was found. An FBI agent testified that the shirt had not been tested at the FBI lab but instead had only reviewed the results.
Smith’s attorneys are claiming that such testimony by the agent would have been inadmissible hearsay and should not have been allowed.
The appeal also challenges the admission of other evidence which linked Smith to the crimes and claims there were at least 12 areas of the trial which may have been unconstitutional or where judicial error was made such as allowing the jury to view crime scene photos and allowing testimony by Smith’s brother.
Smith, now 42, was found guilty of the murder on Thursday Nov. 2005 after a jury deliberated just five hours, convicting Smith of first degree murder, sexual battery of a child less than 12 years of age and kidnapping with infliction of bodily harm and/or with commission of felony on the child.
A jury had voted 10-2 for death by lethal injection for the murder and Circuit Court Judge Andrew Owens agreed, saying that Carlie suffered “unspeakable terror and physical suffering” at the hands of Smith. “May God have mercy on your soul”, the judge said after pronouncing the sentence.
Smith was sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping and sexual battery convictions.
Smith did not testify at the trial. The video tape was introduced into evidence and numerous people identified Smith as the man shown.
Smith’s lawyers had argued for life imprisonment without parole, saying that he was under the influence of drugs and suffered from drug addiction and depression.
Under Florida law, there is a mandatory appeal process for all defendants sentenced to the death penalty. The challenge to Smith’s conviction filed in the state Supreme Court is the first stage of the appeal process. 1-8-09