Life or death? Donald Smith moves to penalty phase following convictions for Cherish Perrywinkle murder

Jacksonville, FL — Donald Smith is just days away from learning if he’ll be sentenced to life in prison, or to the death penalty.

It took a jury less than 15 minutes to convict Smith last week for the 2013 kidnapping, rape, and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. That same panel of jurors will now hear testimony from both sides, as prosecutors air out Smith's prior criminal history, and the defense tries to show mitigating factors.

Smith's defense didn't call any witnesses or deliver a closing argument. They conducted limited cross examination, as the State called 19 witnesses, including emotional testimony from the Medical Examiner and Cherish's mother.

FULL COVERAGE: The trial of Donald Smith

A court filing from the defense shows they intend to call several witnesses, including former members of JSO and Smith's own son. They may also introduce mental health records, medical scans, and details of a "neuropsychological assessment" done of Smith. The State is expected to talk about Smith's status as a sex offender and prior criminal history.

This is the first death penalty case in this circuit since Florida’s death penalty sentencing law was overhauled because of rulings first from the Supreme Court and then the Florida Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court first help that Florida’s sentencing scheme was unconstitutional, because jurors served to advise, but not impose the sentence. The Florida Supreme Court later ruled the jury must also be unanimous in sentencing a person to death.

WOKV and Action News Jax will have full coverage of the penalty phase. Stay with us for continuing coverage.

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