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Donald Smith Passes On Last Chance To Argue Against Death Penalty

Donald Smith appears at a hearing regarding his death sentence.

Donald Smith, who was convicted last month in the rape and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle, declined to call any witnesses Tuesday who might help convince a judge to not to sentence him to death.

Jurors unanimously recommended the death penalty for Smith, 61, at his Feb. 22 sentencing hearing after finding him guilty of first-degree murder, sexual battery and kidnapping charges.

Our News4Jax news partner reports as the hearing began, Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper denied a motion for a new trial filed by Smith's attorneys, who then had one final opportunity to present evidence in what's called a Spencer hearing.

But Smith told Cooper that he didn't want anyone to testify or any arguments to be made on his behalf.

Prosecutors called two witnesses to read victim impact statements: an attorney who read a statement from Cherish's father, and the girl's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, who tearfully read her statement and pointedly looked over at Smith several times.

"I feel the pain of losing Cherish every day. It has been four years and nine months, but for me, it will always feel like yesterday," Perrywinkle said. "The devastation of losing Cherish has never left me, and it never will."

Cherish's father, Billy Jarreau, wrote that he never believed in angels until Cherish came into his life.

"Cherish was a light in my life and in the lives of so many people, and Donald Smith took that light out of this world," Jarreau wrote. "I never really believed in monsters. I do now."

After the emotional statements, Cooper, who presided over the trial, passed the sentencing hearing to 9 a.m. May 2.

You can read a longer version of this story on our News4Jax partner's website.