Sunday, December 20, 2009

Court upholds death sentence for Joseph Smith

Justices reject arguments that trial for Carlie Brucia's killer was not fair

By Todd Ruger

Published: Friday, December 18, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Joseph Smith's conviction and death sentence for the 2004 abduction, rape and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia.

In the first review of the case since Smith's trial, the justices rejected a wide trial.

The case gripped the community and grabbed international attention after a car wash surveillance video recorded a man grabbing Carlie by the hand and leading her away.

The search for her abductor led police to Smith, an auto mechanic who eventually admitted after the trial that he was high on cocaine when he grabbed Carlie from behind Evie's Car Wash on Bee Ridge Road.

The state Supreme Court said there was a "plethora of evidence" regarding the sexual assault and murder, including DNA found on the girl's shirt that matched Smith's and Smith's admission to his brother he had "rough sex" with her.

None of the issues Smith raised in the appeal requires a new trial, the Supreme Court said.

Smith's attorneys argued that two of the jurors should have been removed from the jury pool but ended up serving. One of the jurors said Smith "probably did it" and another juror's daughter was a murder victim.

The attorneys also said prosecutors did not follow rules that require the actual technicians who made the DNA match to testify. Instead, the technicians' supervisor testified at the trial.

Smith's attorneys also contended that statements from Smith as reported by his brother, John Smith, should not have been allowed because John Smith was acting as an agent of the Sheriff's Office.

This story appeared in print on page BN1

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