Carlie's Law was a US Congressional bill introduced by Representative Katherine Harris (R-FL), with the support of Nick Lampson (D-TX) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in response to the kidnapping, rape and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia by Joseph P. Smith, who was released on probation at the time of Carlie's murder. He was released from state prison 13 months prior.
The amendment to existing law was intended to toughen parole rules for sex offenders and also notify non-custodial parents when there is criminal activity near their child's home.
Partly for this reason, Joseph Brucia, the child's father, approved of making the law in her name, although he concedes this law would not have applied to her specific case, since the charges for which Smith was on probation were not the sexual offenses this law targets. His focus was on future similar, but not identical, cases.
The bill failed to pass before the end of the 2004 session. Harris committed to re-introduce the bill in 2005, but no further information has been made available.
Carlie Jane Brucia (March 16, 1992 – February 1, 2004) was sexually battered and murdered by Joseph P. Smith after being kidnapped from a car wash near her home in Sarasota, Florida on February 1, 2004, while returning from a sleepover at a friend's house. She was reported missing by her mother, Susan Schorpen, and her stepfather, Steven Kansler, within a half hour of her abduction.
The kidnapping case became famous after a surveillance video showing the girl surfaced. The video, taken from a security camera located behind a car wash, shows Carlie being confronted by a man, later identified as Joe Smith, who then grabbed her arm and led her away toward a Buick that was spotted on another camera. The video was shown nationwide and spurred a massive manhunt for the abductor.
On February 6, police announced that Smith, a 37-year-old father of three and car mechanic with a long list of arrests for drug-related charges and one for kidnapping and false imprisonment, was in custody as the primary suspect. In the same announcement, the police confirmed that Smith's car, a beige 1992 Buick Century, was involved in the crime.
The story gained national media attention in large part because Brucia's abduction was recorded by a surveillance camera. The tape shows her being approached by a man who seemed to be in his late 20s or early 30s. They apparently had a short conversation, after which he grabbed her by the arm and took her away. The FBI and NASA joined in the efforts to find Brucia and the man seen with her on the videotape. NASA researchers used advanced image processing technology to enhance the recording by reducing image jitter.
At least two informants called police, having recognized Smith from the television broadcasts of the security camera tape. Smith was already in custody at the time, having been arrested on February 3 on an unrelated parole violation. Smith refused to speak with investigators about Brucia's abduction until February 5, when he revealed where he had hid her body, behind a nearby church.
On February 20, Smith was indicted for first-degree murder and charges of kidnapping and capital sexual battery were also filed by Sarasota County prosecutors. The trial started November 7, 2005 in Sarasota. On November 17, 2005 at 3:24PM, the jury announced their verdict, that Smith was guilty as charged. On December 1, 2005, the jury, by a vote of 10 to 2, returned a recommendation for the death penalty. On March 15, 2006, the day before what would have been Carlie's fourteenth birthday, he was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment on the charges of capital sexual battery and kidnapping, and was sentenced to death by lethal injection for murder. The judge in the case was Circuit Court Judge Andrew D. Owens. In October 2011, at the start of the Court's term, the U.S. Supreme Court (which had earlier rejected an appeal from Smith in June 2011), responded to a federal claim filed by Smith saying his right to confront witnesses at trial was violated when prosecutors introduced DNA evidence against him. It asked the state of Florida to give an official response. A panel of legal experts talking about the forensic work did not include the lab technician who actually performed the test. State courts have been at odds on whether such non-testimonial evidence is acceptable, particularly in capital cases. The Justices last week accepted review of a case from Illinois raising similar issues, though the state of Illinois itself no longer uses the death penalty.
The case is Smith v. Florida (09-10755).
- Foundation created for Carlie to raise awareness
- H.R. 4150(108): Carlie's Law - Full text of the bill and its current status.
- Court TV complete coverage of the Joseph Smith murder trial
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
- CCTV Images
- Criminal justice system failed Carlie Brucia