Carlie's Law was a bill introduced in the United States Congress 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 in Florida in February 2004. Smith was on probation at the time of Brucia's murder, having been released from state prison thirteen 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 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 the law would target.
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, United States, on February 1, 2004, while returning from a friend's house. She was reported missing by her parents within half an 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 Brucia being confronted by a man, later identified as Smith, who then grabbed her arm and led her away toward a car 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 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, the jury returned a guilty verdict. On December 1, 2005, the jury, by a vote of 10 to 2, returned a recommendation for the death penalty. On March 15, 2006, Smith was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment on the charges of capital sexual battery and kidnapping, and to death by lethal injection on the murder charge.
In October 2011, the United States Supreme Court (which had earlier rejected an appeal from Smith in June 2011), ordered that the State of Florida respond to a federal claim filed by Smith saying his right to confront witnesses at trial was violated when prosecutors introduced DNA evidence against him without making available the lab technician who actually performed the work. The Court later dismissed the appeal after deciding a related case, Williams v. Illinois.
In the aftermath of Hurst v. Florida, which required juries in Florida to be unanimous in imposing the death penalty, Smith's death sentence was overturned in 2018. He is awaiting a resentencing hearing.
- 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
- CCTV Images