Convicted killer Donald Smith appears in court. | News4JaxConvicted killer Donald Smith appears in court. | News4Jax
Convicted killer Donald Smith appears in court. | News4Jax

Hearing delayed in murder of Cherish Perrywinkle

Published on December 4, 2023 at 12:56 pm

A court hearing for Donald Smith, sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle, has been postponed until January after one of his attorneys resigned over the weekend.

Smith is seeking a new trial after claiming his earlier attorneys made several errors during his trial.

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Smith claims his attorneys failed to object when prosecutors played for jurors the panicked 911 call from the missing girl’s mother; failed to object to “digitally altered” surveillance footage highlighting Smith’s movements at the Walmart; and failed to adequately inform Smith of the consequences when he instructed them not to cross-examine the child’s mother.

The motion says the attorneys also failed in allowing a “biased” juror to be seated and a mental health expert to testify that Smith was “the most dangerous pedophile she had ever met.”

Smith was expected to appear in court for multiple days this week with new attorneys, raising the possibility that his previous attorneys could be called to the stand to defend themselvers.

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Instead, one of Smith’s three new attorneys withdrew from the case. No reason was given in court, according to News4Jax, a Jacksonville Today partner.

The judge postponed the hearing until Jan. 16, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

Smith was convicted of the kidnapping, rape and murder of the 8-year-old girl in 2013. Smith had met her mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, at a Dollar General store. Smith told Rayne Perrywinkle that he would take her and her daughters shopping at a Walmart, according to the News Service of Florida.

While at Walmart, Smith said he would buy the family cheeseburgers at a McDonald’s at the store but left with Cherish Perrywinkle in a van. He was convicted of raping and strangling the child and leaving her body in a creek.

Smith was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping of a victim under age 13 and sexual battery on a victim under age 12. In addition to the death sentence for the murder, he received life sentences on the kidnapping and sexual battery charges.

The Florida Supreme Court unanimously upheld his conviction and sentence, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case.

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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