February 14, 2006

Florida girl’s killer asks for mercy, life

SARASOTA, Florida (Reuters) - A man convicted of murdering
an 11-year-old Florida girl whose abduction was captured by a
surveillance camera asked a judge on Tuesday to spare his life
and said he was too drugged to remember details of the crime.

Joseph Smith was convicted in November of raping and
murdering Carlie Brucia. The jury recommended Smith's execution
by a 10-2 vote but the decision on whether he gets the death
penalty or life in prison is up to the trial judge, Circuit
Judge Andrew Owens.

Brucia disappeared on February 1, 2004, while walking home
from a friend's house. The case gained national attention
because a surveillance camera at a car wash recorded a man
coming toward Brucia and leading her away. The videotape was
widely televised and several people recognized Smith as the

Brucia's half-naked body was found in a churchyard and
police said she had been strangled.

"I'm truly sorry for my actions," Smith told Owens at a
sentencing hearing.

Smith, 39, acknowledged his guilt as he spoke publicly
about the murder for the first time. He said he was addicted to
drugs and had been using cocaine and heroin on the day he
killed Brucia.

"I really don't remember much of that day," he said. "I
only hope I will be an example of what drugs can do to you."

Smith cried and said he was afraid of how his death would
affect his young daughters and his mother.

"I don't ask for mercy for myself, but for my family," he

Prosecutor Debra Riva said Smith deserved to be executed.
"None of that (Smith's drug problems) outweigh the horrible
crime he committed against Carlie Brucia," he said.

On Monday, Riva read a statement from Brucia's mother,
Susan Schorpen, saying Carlie's murder had destroyed her
family. Schorpen could not attend because she has been jailed
since last month on drug possession and prostitution charges.

"I have self-medicated myself to stop feeling, to numb the
pain," Schorpen said in her statement.

The judge is scheduled to announce Smith's sentence on
March 15.