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I-95 Northbound drivers to experience Overland Bridge traffic shift
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I-95 Northbound drivers to experience Overland Bridge traffic shift

I-95 Northbound drivers to experience Overland Bridge traffic shift
This is the point on I-95 northbound where drivers will decide if they are heading to the Fuller Warren or to Downtown, to determine which lanes of I-95 they should take.

I-95 Northbound drivers to experience Overland Bridge traffic shift

It’s news that drivers have been waiting for.

The Florida Department of Transportation opened northbound lanes of the Overland Bridge this weekend.

Once the newly rebuilt lanes of the highway are open, that will be how drivers travel to get to the Fuller Warren and beyond. The lanes that currently carry I-95 northbound traffic will convert to serving as dedicated access for Downtown. The existing lanes will not reconnect to the new lanes at Downtown- it will drop all traffic off in Downtown. The FDOT will have new signage up to help drivers navigate the changes.

The southbound lanes remain under construction.

The FDOT says the overall project is slated for completion in early 2018.

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  • Jacksonville leaders in education and law enforcement say there is no single idea to stop school violence, but a multitude of procedures that can be improved to tighten security.  During a roundtable discussion on Jacksonville's Morning News today, Duval Schools Superintendent Patricia Willis addressed the role of arming teachers and administrators.  “Should there be an armed guard in our schools, I think so. I think our school resource officers, but I don’t know that that’s the role we would ask the teachers to take”, Willis said during the live broadcast.  Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams echoed the Superintendent, saying it is too much to ask of a teacher or administrator.  “That individual needs to have the proper training and it’s not rubber stamp training, it’s consistent. As we talk worst case scenario, probably one of the most challenging situations you can be in as a law enforcement officer is being in a confined space with another individual and talk about having a gun battle.  That’s an incredibly challenging position”, Williams said.  Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry addressed the greater issue of violence in the city, specifically the shooting death of 7-year-old Tashawn Gibbons, and cited the need for prevention and intervention programs that are consistent.  “The Kids Hope Alliance is a new organization that will deliver those services, and you’re talking about a long play, a long investment here. And we have to get it right. But here’s what has to happen: There has to be a commitment from the Mayor’s Office, the City Council, the schools, to put pressure on the elected officials to continue to invest in these programs”, Curry said.  Watch video from the broadcast here:  
  • “He made the conscious choice to end her life,” argued Assistant State Attorney Mark Caliel. “Do we execute the mentally ill,” asked Defense Attorney Julie Schlax.  The recurring themes laid out during Thursday’s closing arguments in the penalty phase of the trial of Donald Smith. Smith was convicted last week of the 2013 kidnapping, rape, and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle, and could be sentenced to death for the murder charge.  FULL COVERAGE: The trial of Donald Smith While the State only presented one witness in this phase- a former victim of Smith- Caliel reminded the jury that all the evidence that led to Smith’s conviction is still in play, from the testimony of the Chief Medical Examiner and autopsy photos of Cherish, to her mother’s account of how Smith befriended and deceived her.  He recounted a lot of that while explaining for the jury what aggravating factors they’re presenting in this case. The jury must determine if these aggravators exist, if they’re sufficient to impose the death penalty, and if they outweigh mitigating circumstances.  Two aggravators which Caliel believes have already been proven inherent in the convictions, are that the murder happened in the commission of another felony and that the victim was under 12-years-old. He said the testimony of their witness- who described Smith’s attempted kidnapping and later reappearance outside of her home- showed the third aggravator, that Smith has at least one prior violent felony.  Another aggravator, according to Caliel, is that Smith committed the murder to avoid his own arrest. Smith would have faced life in prison just for the capital sexual battery charge. Caliel said Smith killed Cherish because he needed to eliminate a witness.  “He made the conscious choice to end her life,” he said.  This relates to another aggravator, that the crime was “cold, calculated, and premeditated”. The defense has built a case that Smith could not control his impulses because of brain trauma and abnormalities. Caliel said the impulse control may relate to Smith’s pedophilia, but the murder was intentional. He said there were many times over the night that he could have acted on an impulse and attacked Cherish, but instead he spent hours building the trust of her mother, plotting his actions, and lying.  “This was hours of reflection and planning to get what he wanted,” he said.  The final aggravator is the “heinous, atrocious, and cruel” nature of the crime. Caliel recounted the details of Cherish’s death, injuries she suffered, and how Smith tried to hide her body under some debris.  “Heinous, atrocious, and cruel- I think those words do not do justice to what happened,” Caliel said.  He said any one of those aggravating circumstances could lead to the death penalty, but the jury will consider all six. He further told the jury they will have a long list of facts to consider as mitigation- or factors that should be weighed to determine if Smith should face the death penalty- but it is up to them to determine what weight, if any, these factual statements hold. The statements include everything from the age of Smith’s mom at the time of his birth to his report of a prior molestation.  Schlax says even if the jury finds all of the aggravating factors and none of the mitigators, they still have the moral ability to not impose death.  “Would killing Donald Smith make this world a better place,” Schlax said.  Smith appeared to shed several tears as Schlax went back through the expert testimony that had been presented regarding damage to Smith’s brain. The defense called nine witnesses in this penalty phase, many of whom testified to Smith’s brain function. Schlax described the “torment” of being in Smith’s mind, and the proof of its impact, in that he hasn’t been able to form meaningful relationships, has been frequently incarcerated, and has previously sought help.  “He didn’t ask to be that way, he was born this way,” Schlax said.  She told the jury they’ve already delivered justice for Cherish Perrywinkle, by convicting Smith last week.  “The only time Mr. Smith will ever leave the custody of the Department of Corrections is in a pine box. The question is, will that be as the result of a call from a higher power, or a call from our Governor,” Schlax said.  Caliel qualified the expert testimony presented by the defense during this sentencing phase, though. He said it is up to the jury to decide if they believe the witness had an expertise in what they specifically testified to, if the witness had anything to gain from the proceedings, and what weight they should ultimately give the testimony. He questioned whether some of the experts who testified about the brain scans of Smith wanted the jury to see something, and how any of them could determine what was driving Smith’s actions, despite never asking him specifically about what happened the night of the murder.  Schlax said it’s clear what led up to Smith’s actions.  “You don’t turn mental illness off,” she said.  She pleaded for mercy, saying it’s sometimes given to those who don’t deserve it. She said Smith’s mental illness is an “inherent flaw” over which he had no control, and that justifies the jury sentencing him to life in prison.  “You will never regret it,” Schlax said.  Caliel said, in any case, it’s certainly the right of the jury to show mercy.  “Donald Smith is not deserving of your mercy,” Caliel said.  He said the jury can acknowledge that imposing the death penalty would mean Smith’s son, Donald Smith Jr- who testified that he’s built a relationship with his father since Smith has been incarcerated- loses his father. But he said that shouldn’t be considered, just like they shouldn’t consider any sorrow for Cherish’s mother, Rayne Perrywinkle. Caliel said this is a legal decision.  “The death penalty is appropriate, the death penalty is just, and the death penalty is what he deserves for what he did to that little girl. It’s what he deserves,” Caliel concluded.  WOKV and Action News Jax will have full coverage of the jury’s decision as soon as it’s in.
  • You may want to store up some extra sleep in the next few weeks because you are about to lose an hour of it. Come March 11 at 2 a.m. most of America will be “springing forward” as daylight saving time kicks in, giving us another hour of sunlight. Here’s a look at seven things you may not have known about daylight saving time. “Spring forward and fall back” is an easy way to remember how to set the clock when daylight saving times begins and ends. You set your clock forward one hour at 2 a.m. on March 11. You’ll set it back one hour at 2 a.m. on Nov. 4. In the United States, daylight saving time began on March 21, 1918. U.S. government officials reasoned that fuel could be saved by reducing the need for lighting in the home. Ancient agrarian civilizations used a form of daylight saving time, adjusting their timekeeping depending on the sun’s activity. Many people call it daylight savings time. The official name is daylight saving time. No ‘s’ on ‘saving.’ Benjamin Franklin came up with an idea to reset clocks in the summer months as a way to conserve energy. A standardized system of beginning and ending daylight saving time came in 1966 when the Uniform Time Act became law. While it was a federal act, states were granted the power to decide if they wanted to remain on standard time year-round. Arizona (except for the Navajo, who do observe daylight saving time on tribal lands), Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands do not observe daylight saving time.
  • Not only did Donald Smith have abnormally small and large portions of his brain, but he suffered brain trauma, according to an expert witness for the defense, who’s arguing that some of those abnormalities affect Smith’s behavior.  He’s one of several expert witnesses the defense has called so far, to try to make their case that Smith cannot control his impulses, and acts without regard for the consequences despite knowing right from wrong.  FULL COVERAGE: The trial of Donald Smith Dr. Geoff Colino testified as an expert in forensic neurology for the penalty phase of this trial, where Smith could be sentenced to death for the 2013 murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. Colino told the jury Smith told him that in the weeks leading up to Cherish’s kidnapping, rape, and murder, he was feeling like he was “skating on thin ice” and knew we “was going to fall through”. Smith reported not sleeping, smoking crack virtually non-stop, taking other pills, hallucinating, and experiencing other effects.  Colino ordered several brain scans in order to get a more complete picture, and they were shown to the jury. Colino highlighted areas where Smith’s brain is larger than normal, all formed during development ahead of puberty.  “I can’t tell you what caused it, but I can’t see how there would be a choice in these things happening to him,” he said, in response to a defense question about the theme to the State’s case- that Smith was making choices.  Among the areas affected is the thalamus, which Colino says deals with a wide range of important tasks like regulating aggression, making decisions, maintaining a sleep cycle, and other areas. He says Smith’s poor decision making was in clear, as evidenced by his using crack cocaine and other drugs within a couple of weeks of having a heart attack.  Other areas of Smith’s brain were abnormally small, according to Colino. Among the areas affected are those dealing with memory, inhibition, and learning from undesirable experiences. Defense Attorney Charles Fletcher asked if that could explain how Smith could face criminal punishments for sex crimes, but continue to offend.  “If he does not learn from that, this explains why,” he said.  Colino also noted areas where he believes there was trauma to the brain, although he could not say what caused the trauma or when it happened. Based on Smith’s history and the symptoms, Colino believes it’s “clinically probable” Smith is suffering from CTE- which has gained attention in recent years through concussion awareness, especially among football athletes. To understand the impact of CTE, Colino told jurors to think of Smith’s ability to not act on an impulse, as a bicycle break.  “The cable is so frayed and stretched as to be nearly non-existent, non-functional. He can’t control his behaviors,” Colino said.  During cross examination, State Attorney Melissa Nelson pointed out that the same decision making area in question also governs the decision to deceive- with the state arguing Smith clearly planned and carried out a ruse as part of this crime. She then questioned Colino further about the cause of the brain trauma specifically, pointing to an area in his deposition where he said that could have been caused by a cardiac event. It led to a heated line of questioning, with Colino now saying that’s not the case, and that if he misspoke in the deposition, it’s because he only had two days to prepare and he was “sick as a dog” with the flu.  “You are making a very big deal about my saying yes,” Colino said.  “No sir, I’m making a big deal about the fact that you’re an expert witness offering an opinion to this jury,” Nelson said.  “I’m saying that, as a human being, I may have said yes, either not fully processing the question or because I had the flu, yes,” Colino said.  As highlighted by Fletcher, Nelson did not question the brain scans themselves. Multiple witnesses testified that the EEGs and information they had studied connected to Smith- dating back to the 1970s- do not show any evidence of brain trauma.  Looking beyond the physiology, a psychologist and pharmacologist also testified to try to round out the defense’s picture.   Forensic Psychologist Dr. Heather Holmes, who testified with an expertise in sex offender evaluation and treatment within the incarceration setting, diagnosed Smith with several personality disorders, including major depressive disorder, severe cocaine use disorder, pedophilic disorder, antisocial personality, and borderline personality features.  With the pedophilia, Holmes says there’s still no clear idea what causes it in any given offender.  “I can’t pin the tail on the donkey. I wish to God I could, but we just don’t know,” she said.  She says Smith had an “inappropriate” relationship with his mother, who was “enmeshed” with him and overprotective, including paying his drug debts and funding prison protection. Despite that, Holmes says Smith had a “privileged” upbringing, and there was no clear incident she could see as being any trigger or explanation.  But because Smith had not been receiving regular treatment, Holmes says it’s safe to assume his pedophilia was getting worse as he reinforced it over time with action. The same is true of Smith’s drug use, with him having a tendency toward smoking crack cocaine.  “Due to the combined effects of chronic substance abuse and use disorder that was from childhood through current, multiple major psychiatric disorders, chronic cocaine binge use or crack cocaine binge use, including the recent addition of the psychiatric medication- that Mr. Smith would have been impaired to the degree that his normal judgement, skills, and ability were profoundly diminished,” says Dr. Daniel Buffington, a clinical pharmacologist who testified as an expert in pharmacology.  Buffington says records showed him that, over time, there was an increase in the intensity of medication needed to manage Smith. At the time of Cherish’s murder, Smith reported not only using crack cocaine, but also a drug under the generic name Quetiapine or brand name Seroquel- which he got illicitly through his drug dealer’s sister. He says that combination could have created a “dangerous storm”.  Severe cocaine use alone, according to Buffington, could lead to paranoia, delirium, psychoses, and homicidal and suicidal thoughts, among other things. He says it also means the drug user will have problems with hygiene, communication, planning, judgement, and similar areas.  On cross examination, Assistant State Attorney Mark Caliel confirmed that Buffington’s opinions on Smith’s state were based essentially only on what Smith reported to him, because there was minimal documentation of his drug activity, since most was not legal. Buffington said Smith appeared to be honest and forthcoming through their conversation, and he’s trained to look for exaggerations or withholdings in his conversations, although Caliel says other witnesses have classified Smith as deceptive and manipulative.  Smith’s drug use started young, with Holmes testifying that his step-father was a psychiatrist, who gave Smith prescriptions during his pre-teen years. From there, testimony has said Smith used marijuana, alcohol, LSD, and cocaine.  Holmes says Smith’s personality disorders don’t prevent him from being able to control his impulses, but drug use lowers inhibition.  Holmes says Smith admitted to her what he did, but that he showed no acceptance of responsibility at any time before then, sometimes blaming his lawyers and sometimes blaming his victims.  “He told you he blamed Cherish Perrywinkle for having had to kill her, didn’t he?” asked Nelson.  “Yes,” Holmes responded.  “He told you that he looked back, she got in the van, and he thought, quote-‘F***, I’m a convicted sex offender, how am I going to explain this’,” Nelson followed.  “Yes,” Holmes said.  She further confirmed Smith showed no signs of remorse while speaking about what he did.  While the defense has presented that, in the days ahead of Cherish’s murder, Smith tried to get himself committed under the Baker Act- saying that shows he couldn’t control himself and wanted to get help- the state says there are several other incidents in his past where Smith rejected treatment. That includes failing to abide by a treatment program that he agreed to when he was released from civil commitment.  Dr. Joseph Wu, an expert in the field of neuropsychiatry added to the testimony on Wednesday saying Smith was in the cented of a “perfect storm”. Between Smith’s brain abnormalities, traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative disorder, history of sexual trauma, physical abuse, and neglect. “All of which combined to create an individual who’s going to have catastrophic failure in impulse control,” Wu said. All of this medical and psychological information about Smith was released in open court with his consent, as part of the defense strategy.  WOKV and Action News Jax continue to follow every development in this penalty phase. Stay with us for continuing coverage.
  • A father is in custody after police say he intentionally killed his 5-year-old son at a DeKalb County, Georgia, home Wednesday night. >> Read more trending news It was not immediately clear what led to the homicide or how the boy was killed. According to police, the child lived at a home on Rocky Pine Drive in Lithonia with his grandmother. His parents drove from California for an unannounced visit Wednesday, authorities said. The boy’s mother and grandmother left the home, returned and “learned that the child had been murdered,” police spokeswoman Shiera Campbell told WSBTV. Three other children were inside the home at the time of the killing, but were not injured, the news station reported.  Police have not released the names of the father and child. 'Right now, the father is in custody,” Campbell said. “He is a 25-year-old male.”  Authorities continued to investigate the incident Thursday.

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