Defense team aims to discredit slain girl's mother
Defense attorney awaits appeal of motion to withdraw from case
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The defense team for the man accused of the kidnap, rape and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle hopes to discredit the girl's mother as a witness in the case.
During a pretrial hearing Thursday for 57-year-old Donald Smith, defense attorney Fred Gazaleh argued Rayne Perrywinkle should have been taking prescription medication at the time of her deposition. Perrywinkle was not on medicine when Cherish was killed. She was prescribed medicine after the killing but wasn't taking it during her deposition or interview with attorneys.
Perrywinkle, who was not in court Thursday, previously admitted that she hadn't been taking the medication but is now.
Perrywinkle is a key witness for the prosecution in the case against Smith.
In June 2013, Smith befriended Perrywinkle at a Northside dollar store and went with Perrywinkle and Cherish (pictured) to a nearby Walmart to buy clothes.
Investigators said Smith offered to take Cherish with him to get something to eat and left with the girl. After searching for his van for hours, officers found it on I-95 and shortly after found Cherish's body.
Prosecutor Mark Caliel argued Thursday that even if Perrywinkle should have been taking medication, and even if she was the worst mother in the world, it doesn't discount what Smith is accused of doing to Cherish.
Another issue regarding Perrywinkle's suitability as a witness involved her saying during her deposition that she is clairvoyant. Caliel said she told him during the deposition that she has a gift and gets a sense that things are going to happen in the future and even used to work as a psychic. Perrywinkle (pictured) said ever since Cherish was born, she had premonitions that something was going to happen to Cherish and that she was going to "die by age 7." Perrywinkle said the clairvoyance comes and goes. The defense insinuated Thursday that by Perrywinkle thinking something was going to happen to Cherish, her actions helped contribute to her death.
During her deposition, Perrywinkle also admitted to lying under oath in a previous case. The attorneys didn't go into detail about when or what that case was about on Thursday. But Caliel said that has nothing to do with what Smith is accused of.
On Wednesday, Gazaleh (pictured) filed a motion with the First District Court of Appeals to withdraw from the case because of a conflict of interest. He has asked the appellate court to expedite the process because of the upcoming trial, so the court will likely rule soon but it's not clear when.
Smith is currently on the calendar for another pretrial hearing on Jan. 5. Jury selection in his case is scheduled on Jan. 20, and the trial is slated to begin Jan. 26.
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