SARASOTA, Fla. – 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.
After deliberating for five hours, the jury voted 10-2 for the death penalty for Joseph Smith, who was convicted last month on charges of kidnapping, sexual battery and first-degree murder in the slaying of Carlie Brucia.
Circuit Judge Andrew Owens ultimately will issue the sentence and could do so 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."
Defense attorneys left the courthouse without commenting.
Jury foreman Francis Kruzel said deciding the sentence was not easy. "Our hearts go out to the families of both Carlie Brucia and Joseph Smith. We're praying for them," said Kruzel, a clergyman.
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.
"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 case 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.
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.