A Feb.13 trial came to a halt after the court grew emotional while a medical examiner recalled the graphic autopsy of a raped and murdered 8-year-old girl.
Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao was asked to give her testimony at the trial of 61-year-old Donald Smith, reports News 4 Jax.
Smith reportedly kidnapped, raped, and killed Cherish Perrywinkle in June 2013.
He allegedly lured her family with promises of new clothes and a McDonald’s meal at Wal-Mart after seeing the mother struggle to pay for her children’s outfits at a discount store.
Cherish’s mother, Rayne, recalls the moment Smith had deceived her into thinking he was just being a good Samaritan when he took her child and never came back.
“I was yelling, ‘Call 911!” she recalls. “My daughter’s been taken,’ and no one would help me right away.”
Later, Rao recalled finding severe injuries all over the child’s body from being strangled with a piece of clothing and raped.
The medical examiner said the girl’s body was “totally distorted” from the trauma, and estimates it took the child 3 to 5 minutes to die, First Coast News reporter Anne Schindler live-tweeted.
She continued, adding the child’s right eye began bleeding while being strangled.
Rao also revealed that Cherish had tried to fight back and had injured Smith’s penis.
Viewing photographs of the body in court, Rao grew teary and was forced to take a break.
Upon hearing her testimony, jurors were also left in tears.
Yet not everybody was moved. Smith’s defense urged the judge to declare a mistrial, arguing that the medical examiner’s reaction could produce bias among the jurors.
Judge Mallory Cooper denied the motion.
Before the testimony that day, the jury heard secret jail recordings in which State Attorney Melissa Nelson says Smith can be heard bragging about the crime.
“She had a lot for a white girl,” Smith is heard telling another inmate on the tape, allegedly referring to Cherish’s buttocks.
After closing arguments are presented on Feb. 14, the case will go to the jury for deliberations.
If Smith is found guilty, jurors will be asked by prosecutors to sentence him to death.
It’s just one of over a dozen times Smith has been arrested in the past 40 years.
IN fact, Smith had been released from prison only three weeks before Cherish died.
Doctors determined he was a violent sexual predator after arrests in 1999.
At least three of his previous charges have led to sex abuse convictions, and he has been on Florida’s registry of sexual offenders since it was created.