Jacksonville man accused of raping, killing 8-year-old asking for new trial

A convicted child killer was back in court Tuesday asking for another trial. Donald Smith argued his defense team didn’t adequately defend him.

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Smith was sentenced to death in 2018 for kidnapping, raping, and murdering 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. His new defense team first called his former attorney, Julie Schlax, to the stand.

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“I sincerely have yet to have a trial where I didn’t sit down and said I wish I argued this more thoroughly. Yes absolutely,” she said while being questioned by the defense.

Smith’s attorneys questioned why Schlax never questioned Rayne Perrywinkle, Cherish’s mother. During the trial the defense did not cross examine or object to any of Rayne’s testimony.

Related Story: Donald Smith, convicted of killing Jacksonville girl Cherish Perrywinkle, asks for new trial

“Sincerely I did not want to cross-examine Rayne. I did not sleep the night before thinking about it. I was thankful that he stopped me,” Schlax said.

The state argued it was Smith who asked Schlax not to cross-examine Rayne in a last-minute decision made in front of the jury.

The defense’s goal was to get a life sentence and Schlax said she picked jurors who she thought would be reluctant to impose the death penalty. On Tuesday, the defense questioned whether she was successful in doing that.

Related Story: Remembering Cherish Perrywinkle: 10 years since Jacksonville girl was kidnapped, raped, killed

The defense further questioned a psychologist hired by the defense to consult them on Smith’s mental state.

“He had a long history offending and the state did miss some really big signs and he should’ve at the very least been monitored. [The state] dropped the ball,” Dr. Brook Butler said.

Related Story: Cherish Perrywinkle case: Justices take up appeal from Donald Smith, man sentenced to death in Jacksonville girl’s murder

Butler said the doctor who was called to the stand instead did not clearly portray the mitigating factors like mental illness and substance abuse that should’ve lessened the severity of the crime.

“There was some information in the report that was just concerning,” she said.

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The state fired back and said Smith never complained about his defense until and now. They said he also made appreciative comments towards Schlax many times after the trial. Prosecutors made a motion to dismiss the case, but the judge denied it. The state will call its witnesses on Wednesday.

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