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Lawyers For Accused Child Killer Donald Smith File Motion To Dismiss Death Penalty

Lawyers for accused Jacksonville child murderer Donald Smith are trying to block the death penalty in his case in light of Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling.

The high court struck down Florida’s death sentencing procedure.

Donald Smith is charged in the 2013 kidnapping, molestation and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. This week, Smith’s legal team wasted no time filing a motion to stop Florida from seeking the death penalty in his case after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled state judges have too much sentencing power.

In a near-unanimous decision Tuesday, the high court found juries, not judges should decide unanimously on reasons for a death sentence, referred to as aggravating factors.

The decision threw hundreds of death penalty cases into legal limbo. The Florida Supreme Court will have to decide whether the decision applies retroactively to all cases.

Smith’s trial is set for early April. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.