Death row inmate who murdered 11-year-old Carlie Brucia could get sentence reduced to life in prison

Posted at 10:04 PM, Jul 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-20 04:28:38-04

In 2004, Carlie Brucia was walking home behind a car wash when surveillance video shows Joseph Smith walk up to her and abduct her. It was the last video of her alive and the last moments before her innocence would be lost along with her life.

RELATED: Death sentence for Carlie Brucia's killer is vacated, 11-year-old murdered in Sarasota in 2004

Joseph Smith kidnapped, raped, and murdered the 11-year-old then dumped her body Smith in the woods behind Central Church of Christ on Proctor Road, where it was found five days later.

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.


“He had a fair trail, it was 10 to 2 for him to have death penalty,” Judy Cornett said.

Cornett became friends with Carlie’s mom, Susan Schorpen, and spent every second with her during the trial. 

Cornett knew how Schorpen felt. Her son was abducted, raped, and left for dead, but thankfully survived. Since that time Cornett has become an advocate to track child predators and started her own group called Predator Patrol.

RELATED | Murder victim Carlie Brucia remembered 10 years later

Cornett said Smith’s case going back into the hands of a jury doesn’t send a message that we are doing what is best for our children.

“This is not fair. Carlie didn't get a second chance in life, why, does he get a second chance?" Cornett said. "He committed a heinous crime against an innocent little girl. Why should he be able to walk the prison yards?  His life should be terminated like hers was.”

Cornett said she is rallying groups to join her in Sarasota when Smith’s case is set for re-sentencing.

“Carlie no longer has a voice and there are a lot of others and somebody has to be the voice for these innocent children,” Cornett said.  “We have to be a presence there. We have to let the courts know that we are not going to accept anything other than what he got when he went to trial in the past.”

RELATED | Mother of Sarasota murder victim back in 2004 has died

No date has been set for the new re sentencing trial. 

In 2016, the Florida Supreme Court twice ruled that the death penalty law was unconstitutional because it did not require a jury to unanimously impose capital punishment. The Florida Legislature updated the death penalty law requiring a unanimous jury to impose death in March.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure into law, opening the door for Smith and possibly hundreds of others to ask for lighter sentences.