On Wednesday, Dr. Joseph Wu, an expert in the field of neuropsychiatry, took the stand to testify for the defense in the penalty phase of Donald Smith's murder trial. Wu testified that Smith seemed to suffer from multiple traumatic brain injuries.
He showed brain scans to the Florida jury, which needs to decide whether or not Smith receives the death penalty. On Valentine’s Day, it took jurors only 14 minutes to find 61-year-old Donald Smith guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in 2013. The jury found him guilty on all charges.
Dr. Wu said that Smith was just 9 when he suffered a traumatic brain injury (or TBI). He claims at 20, Smith suffered another TBI.
Wu said that the characteristics of Smith’s brain, post-injuries, show a tendency to become fixated on something. That something, Wu explained, could include pedophilia.
He argued that the thinking patterns resulting from the injuries are not a choice. Wu said that the injuries correlate with his behavior, citing the fact that a brain injury can damage impulse control centers and increase the risk of developing an impulse disorder or addiction.
Additionally, Wu said that TBIs can also cause the illusion that someone is suffering from antisocial behavior. On Tuesday, a psychologist testified that she believes Smith has exhibited some antisocial behavior. Dr. Heather Holmes also said that Smith hasn’t exhibited any remorse for his actions. In fact, she said, he even blamed the 8-year-old victim for her own murder.
The defense team is using Wu’s testimony to try to spare Smith from the death penalty. Wu called Smith's brain exhibited a "catastrophic failure in impulse control." Testimony for the defense is expected to be wrapped up on Wednesday, WJXT4 reported.
Smith has been convicted of luring Perrywinkle and her family to a Walmart under the false guise of being generous. He told Perrywinkle's mother he’d buy her children clothing with a gift card. Later that day, Perrywinkle’s body was found half-naked and shoved under a fallen tree in a marshy area near Jacksonville, Florida.
[Photo: Florida Department of Law Enforcement]