For Donald Smith Sr., his sentencing hearing is literally a matter of life and death after he was convicted of kidnapping, raping, and killing 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. His legal team is trying to avoid an execution, so they brought on the defendant’s son Donald Smith Jr. as the last witness on Wednesday before resting their case.
Smith Jr. told the court that among his family members, he was closest to his father and paternal grandmother. Their relationship has grown closer ever since Smith Sr was locked up in Duval County Jail, Smith Jr. said.
“No one can take the place of my dad because he is my blood, and he is my real dad,” he said. “I definitely benefit from him. I talk to him at least once a week, most of the time twice a week, and he gives me really good advice.”
As he described it, this is a pretty new development. Smith Jr. testified that when he was three, his father broke his toys, including a gun and handcuffs. Their relationship remained distant even after Smith Sr. was released from prison when Jr. was 9.
“He wasn’t really interested in me at all,” Smith Jr. said. “That really hurt.”
The only thing they had in common was drugs. He testified that he was 16 when they first got high together.
“It [drugs] changes who you are,” Smith Jr. said, explaining his father’s poor parenting. “What your prioritizes are. It comes first. He wasn’t able to have this kind of relationship with me while he was doing that.”
Smith Jr. communicated to the court via webcam since he was out of state (he told the defense he was in Maine). He testified that he has been sober for four or five years after turning to religion.
Prosecutors declined to cross-examine him.
Smith Jr. was the last witness in his father’s sentencing hearing. Closing arguments are set for Thursday. A jury convicted the defendant for Perrywinkle’s 2013 murder in just 12 minutes. Now-retired K9 Officer Charlie Wilkie said he found her body in a creek–Smith Sr. attempted to hide her under bricks, cement, and other material.
[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]