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Psychologist: Donald Smith Does Not Have A Normal Human Brain

Donald Smith
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The 25-year-old son of convicted child rapist and killer Donald Smith testified Wednesday during the sentencing phase of his father's trial, sharing both the bad and good sides of his father.

Smith was found guilty last week of kidnapping, sexual battery and first-degree murder in the June 2013 death of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

The jury that convicted him must now decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison for Smith, our News4Jax partner reported.

Smith took Cherish from a Jacksonville Walmart, brutally raped her, strangled her and dumped her body in a creek behind a church.

Donald Smith Jr., was the final witness called by the defense Wednesday as they wrapped up their efforts to convince the jurors to show mercy to Smith, who is 61.

Smith Jr., who testified remotely via video from Maine, admitted that his father's absence because of frequent prison stints likely contributed to the beginnings of a drug habit that lasted nearly a decade.

He said he even did illegal drugs with his father as early as 16-years-old.

He said he's been sober for about four years now “by the power of God” and is attending Bible college.

“I've had a really crazy life. It wasn't all his fault, but I didn't have that father figure around to lead me in the right ways,” Smith Jr. said. “When I found drugs, I wasn't seeking them to ease pain, but I found out that it did ease pain and help me to forget.”

The younger Smith said that since his father has been in the Duval County jail, following his arrest in Cherish's killing, he's developed a relationship with him that he doesn't believe he could have had if Smith was still “on the streets.”

Two doctors took the stand Wednesday to explain that Smith's brain doesn't function like a normal human’s.

They used different methods to evaluate his brain and his neurological symptoms and both concluded that Smith lacks impulse control, which combined with his pedophilia, could have contributed to Cherish's death.

Psychologist Joseph Sesta, who interviewed Smith for more than five hours, said "there's no question that Donald Smith does not have a normal human brain."

He said that was the answer he could offer for how we can sleep at night knowing a human being could do what Smith did to a small child.

"This is not something that people with normal brains do," he said, pointing to brain damage that he said prevents Smith from hitting the "brakes" on his bad behavior sparked when his brain hits the "gas" on his pedophilia and psychopathy.

But, Sesta said, that does not absolve Smith of responsibility for his crimes.

“Mr. Smith is responsible for his behavior,” Sesta said. “I think he knew what he was doing (to Cherish), and I think he knew what he was doing was wrong.”

You can read a longer version of our News4Jax partner’s story here.

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit .

Francine Frazier
Jenese Harris - News4Jax