Donald Smith murder trial delayed until 2015

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The man at the center of a high-profile murder trial in Jacksonville will have to wait until next year to face a jury.

Duval County Circuit Court Judge Mallory Cooper delayed the trial start date for Donald Smith, 57, during a hearing on Wednesday morning.

Smith, a known sex offender, is charged with the death of Cherish Perrywinkle, 8.

Authorities said he managed to lure the girl from her mother last summer at a northside Walmart before raping and killing her. The girl's body was later found in a wooded area.

Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Monday, Oct. 6, but now it is pushed back until at least Jan. 20.

The following week, on Jan. 26, is when Cooper plans to begin hearing opening arguments.

If convicted, Smith could be sentenced to death, which his public defender, Fred Gazaleh, said is the reason for the trial delay.

"It's rare that a death penalty case goes to trial in less than 18 months," he said.

Richard Kuritz, a criminal defense attorney with experience in death penalty cases, said attorneys take their time making sure they have a solid case.

"They have to make sure it can stand up on appeal," he said. Under Florida law, Kuritz said appeals are automatic when it involves capital punishment.

Smith is due back in court Nov. 4 for another hearing.

Assistant State Attorney Mark Caliel said there might be an issue with some content on a computer. Attorneys did not state who the device might belong to.

Timeline: The death and abduction of Cherish Perrywinkle

Related Stories:

The life of Cherish Perrywinkle

Father of Cherish Perrywinkle releases statement

Donald Smith, suspect in Cherish Perrywinkle's murder, arrested in 2009 for impersonating DCF worker

FDLE to review Amber Alert protocol after Cherish Perrywinkle abduction

Florida Department of Children and Families takes other children from mother of Cherish


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