Judge grants order keeping evidence sealed – for now – in murder of young Jacksonville girl

Evidence in the murder of an 8-year-old Jacksonville girl will be able to be reviewed by the suspect’s Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys before it is released to the public, a judge ruled last week. Donald Smith is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery in the killing of Cherish Perrywinkle, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Smith’s criminal defense attorneys have asked that all evidence remain sealed until the trial, the newspaper reported. The concern is that some of the stories will include information that will be ruled inadmissible at trial in this Jacksonville Murder Case, and would severely limit Smith’s right to a fair trial. Prosecutors did say there likely would be some items released that the judge may ultimately rule could not be a part of a trial in this Jacksonville Murder Case.

The judge did not grant the entire motion, but did agree for now to let Smith’s attorneys review the evidence first and have the ability to then ask the court to keep the evidence sealed until trial. Once the defense receives discovery information in the case, Smith’s attorneys will have 10 days to file a motion as to whether or not the information should stay out of the public eye until trial, the newspaper reported. The judge will make the decision outside of open court, meaning there will not be a hearing the media or public can attend, the newspaper reported. All defendants have a right to a fair trial in front of a jury of his or her peers. This Jacksonville Murder Case, as expected, received plenty of media attention after Perrywinkle was abducted from a Jacksonville Wal-Mart when Smith lured her family with the promise to buy the family food and clothing, the newspaper reported.

It is always difficult to seat a jury in high-profile Jacksonville Murder Cases. And the case would certainly qualify. The media coverage of this Jacksonville Murder Case has been intense and will continue up to and through the trial. And as disturbing as the allegations are, Smith is entitled to a fair trial. The goal is to find 12 jurors who can sit in judgment who have not already formed an opinion one way or another in this Jacksonville Murder Case. While this coverage has not been as prolific nationally, everyone saw the difficulty of picking a jury in the case of George Zimmerman, accused of second-degree murder in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. Smith’s Jacksonville Murder Case has already drawn attention from state legislators and others asking how Smith, a registered sex offender, could have been out of prison and able to commit the crime he is accused of. The judge in this case is trying to protect Smith’s right to a fair trial, and it will be interesting to see how much of the discovery is allowed to be released prior to a trial, if Smith indeed chooses to take the case to trial.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Murder Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.