• Justice for Cherish Perrywinkle: Donald Smith sentenced to death


    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - UPDATE: Donald Smith was sentenced by a judge to death in the 2013 murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

    As she sentenced him to death in Cherish's murder, Judge Mallory Cooper said, "Donald James Smith, may God have mercy on your soul."

    Cherish's mother Rayne Perrywinkle also had a strong message for Smith.

    "I could say burn in hell. That's what I want to say," she said. "I want him to burn in hell. I hope he's watching this right now actually."

    Perrywinkle said she now wants to help keep children safe.

    "I want to strengthen laws to keep predators locked up where they should be so they don't have the chance to keep getting out to murder children, to lure parents such as myself that were naive that day," Perrywinkle said.

    VIDEO: Cherish's mother Rayne Perrywinkle reacts to Smith receiving death penalty

    On Feb. 14, the jury found Smith guilty on all counts -- rape, kidnapping and murder.

    Since the jury returned a unanimous verdict for death for Smith on Feb. 22, the expectation was that he would be sentenced to death. Judge Cooper just had to sign off on the fact that the jury decision was unanimous, Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson said.

    During Wednesday's sentencing hearing, giving Smith back his personal property, such as his van was discussed. The state refused to give back a computer containing child pornography, which he was not charged for during the trial.

    Juror Paul Hinson was in the courtroom Wednesday as the sentence was handed down and shared an emotional hug with Cherish's mother after the hearing. He said this case has changed his life forever.

    "You see a younger person with an older person and you wonder if that's really, their, a predator or a grandfather walking with a kid. It makes you look twice at other people," Hinson said.

    Hinson said he and other members of the jury still get together as much as possible.

    "We all talk and vent on each other and get each other's feelings, you know, get out there that everyone has their own personal feelings about this. It kind of helps to vent it, not just keep it in to yourself," he said.

    VIDEO: Juror speaks after judge sentences Donald Smith to death penalty

    Original story below:

    Convicted killer Donald Smith is set to receive his sentence Wednesday for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Cherish Perrywinkle in 2013.

    ON TV: Action News Jax will have the latest updates from court on CBS47 at Noon.

    LIVE STREAM: Smith will be in court Wednesday at 9 a.m. Click the video feed below for live video updates from court: 

    Follow Action News Jax reporter, Bridgette Matter, @BridgetteANjax on Twitter for the latest from inside the courtroom.

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    LISTEN: Donald Smith Trial Podcast Special


    Jurors will begin the penalty phase in the Donald Smith trial. Smith was found guilty on last week in the kidnapping, murder, and rape of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

    The penalty phase could last a number of days.

     State Attorney Melissa Nelson said that the State is asking the jurors to seek the death penalty for Smith.

    Smith's defense attorney begins his opening statements.

     Fletcher says there is documentation of mental illness all the way back to 1977.

    Kerri Anne Buck who says Donald Smith tried to kidnap her when she was 13 in 1992 is first to testify. 

    State will not call anymore witnesses.

    The defense's first witness is late. They are trying to workout timing.

    Wednesday Feb. 14 Notes:

    After less than 15 minutes of deliberation on Wednesday morning, a jury found 61-year-old Donald Smith guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in 2013.

    Smith now faces the death penalty.

    Right before putting Donald Smith’s fate in the jury’s hands, his defense attorneys decided not to deliver a closing argument.

    CHERISH PERRYWINKLE: Six things we learned during the trial 

    During the trial, Smith’s defense attorneys did not call any of its own witnesses and barely cross-examined the prosecution’s witnesses.

    During Monday’s 5-minute opening statement, Smith’s attorney Julie Schlax offered no alternative explanation for Cherish’s death.

    So, why did Donald Smith bother to go through with a trial instead of pleading guilty?

    Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson said there could be a legal strategy behind it.

    “If you want to appeal the conduct of the police, or the prosecutor, or even your own defense attorney, you have to go through a trial. Because when you plead, you waive those particular rights,” said Carson.

    As a former FBI agent, Carson spent decades exploring the criminal mind.

    Carson said Smith may have wanted to go through with the trial because he enjoyed the attention.

    “He is able to relive his entire crime. He gets to see crime scene photographs. He gets to see medical examiner photographs,” said Carson.

    DONALD SMITH: Doctor says 'most sociopaths have a very good side to them' 

    Carson said Smith likely felt powerful and in control when he watched witnesses’ and jurors’ emotional responses.

    “Donald Smith has played us in a way that is rather extraordinary. Because everyone in the community who saw or participated in this is just absolutely horrified. So, in that narrow context, he wins,” said Carson.

    The jury will return to the courthouse on Tuesday for the sentencing phase of Smith’s trial.

    Under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the jury’s decision on the death penalty must be unanimous.

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