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Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Donald James Smith Murder Case

     On Friday night, June 21, 2013, 8-year-old Charish Perriwinkle and her mother Rayne were shopping at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida. At seven that night, 56-year-old Donald James Smith, a registered sex offender with an extensive criminal record, struck up a conversation with Rayne who informed him that she had fallen on hard times. She said she wanted to buy a dress for Charish in anticipation of a visit from the girl's father. Unfortunately, she couldn't afford the purchase. Donald Smith, a total stranger, said he wanted to help. He said he had a Walmart gift card they could use to buy food and clothing.

     Donald Smith, following a conviction in 1993 for attempted kidnapping and selling obscene materials, served five years in prison. The Jacksonville man also became a registered sex offender. In 2009, Smith was charged with felony child abuse after making obscene calls to a 10-year-old girl. In that case, he threatened to harm the victim while impersonating a social worker with the Florida Department of Children and Families. Smith eventually pleaded guilty to the felony charge and in return received a light sentence. On May 31, 2013, after serving 438 days behind bars, Smith walked out of the Jackson County Jail a free man.

     From the Dollar General store, Smith drove Charish and Rayne Perriwinkle to a nearby Walmart. While Rayne looked at dresses, Smith, telling Charish that he was going to buy her a meal at the in-house McDonalds, snuck off with the girl. Instead of going to McDonalds, Smith put Charish in his white-colored van and drove off.

     At eleven o'clock that night, when Rayne Perriwinkle realized that her daughter had left Walmart with Smith, she called 911 and reported her missing. The terrified mother described Donald Smith and his van. At six the next morning, Donald Smith, his vehicle, and the missing girl were subjects of an Amber Alert.

     Just before nine that Saturday morning, a police officer investigating a traffic accident on I-95 spotted Smith's van as it passed by in the southbound lane. A few minutes later, a Jacksonville County Deputy Sheriff pulled Smith over and took him into custody. Charish Perriwinkle was not in the van, and Smith was not talking.

     About an hour after Smith's arrest, the police received information regarding a white van that had been parked the previous night in the woods near a church four miles from the Walmart where the victim had been abducted. That tip led to the discovery, in the woods near the church, of the missing girl's corpse.

     On Sunday, June 23, 2013, Donald James Smith pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, sexual battery, and first-degree murder. The arraignment magistrate denied the registered sex offender bail.

     In May 2014, Duval County Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper set Smith's trial for October of that year. The prosecutor's office had announced its intention to seek the death penalty in the case. Smith's attorney, public defender Mark Shirk, asserted that his client was not mentally competent to stand trial, particularly in a capital case.

     In September 2014, with the mental competency issue still unresolved, the judge postponed the Smith trial to early 2015.

     Public defender Shirk, in February 2015, asked the court to remove him from the Smith case due to a conflict of interest that pertained to his representation of a man who had knowledge of Donald Smith's involvement in the Perriwinkle murder. The following month, Judge Cooper appointed Julie Schlax as Smith's new attorney. This meant another case postponement.

     In January 2016, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Florida's death-penalty procedure of allowing a judge to decide if a person convicted of capital murder lives or dies violated a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a jury. A few months after the ruling, the governor signed state legislation that required at least 10 of 12 jurors to support an execution over life without parole.

     Defense attorney Schlax, prior to her client's scheduled April 2016 trial, filed a motion for an indefinite delay. Schlax argued that her client could not be legally sentenced to death because Florida's unconstitutional procedure was in effect when he was charged with first-degree murder. Judge Mallory Cooper granted the defense motion. That meant the Donald James Smith murder trial was on hold until a judge resolved this legal issue.  

4 comments:

  1. Americas legal system is a bigger joke than englands he will end up having a better life in prison but what about charishs wake up people an eye for an eye. If a dog bites someone u put it down if a sex offender attacks and kills someone u give it a bettet life

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  2. Poor girl rip.... donald i hope you get murdred in prison you evil prick

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  3. No wonder Jesus said in the bible, " woe to you you lawyers! For you bind up heavy burdens on men's backs and you do not touch them with one of your fingers"! Lawyers being judges too!!

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