Jury recommends death penalty for Tampa man convicted in 2 cold case homicides

Benjamin Davis Smiley Jr. Image courtesy LPD

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — After deliberating for more than four hours, a Polk jury is recommending the death sentence in the case of 24-year-old convicted murderer Benjamin Davis Smiley Jr., who was found guilty in the 2013 shooting death of a Lakeland man during a home invasion, The Ledger reports.

Circuit Court Judge Jalal Harb will take the verdict into consideration when he decides whether or not to impose the death penalty.

It’s the first time a jury in Polk County has reached a recommendation for a death penalty sentence under Florida’s new law, which requires a jury to vote unanimously for the death penalty.

Another jury found Smiley, a Tampa man, guilty of killing 58-year-old Clifford Drake last year. In 2015, he was convicted in the March 2013 shooting death of 46-year-old Carmen Riley during another home invasion. Both cases went cold until DNA taken from his armed robbery arrest linked Smiley to the crimes. The sentencing for Riley’s death is still pending.

A sentencing date for the Clifford murder has not been scheduled.

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