MINNEAPOLIS — Editor's note: The video above first aired Sept. 2, 2021.
Calling the conditions he is living under while on segregation inside the Hennepin County Jail "cruel and unusual," accused murderer Jamal Smith pleaded with a judge to restore phone privileges that have been highly restricted.
During a hearing over Zoom Monday morning, District Court Judge Nicole Engisch heard oral arguments from both the defense and prosecutors on the matter. Given an opportunity to speak, Smith read a long and detailed statement detailing the conditions he claims he's been living under since his arrest on charges he fatally shot youth baseball coach Jay Boughton after a brief conflict on Highway 169 in Plymouth last July.
Smith's phone privileges were revoked in November of 2021 after prosecutors alleged he had been tampering with state witnesses in the case, and attempting to get them to change their stories.
The defendant denies those claims and told Judge Engisch the four months of segregation he has been living under amount to “cruel and unusual” treatment, saying he’s been “exiled and dehumanized.” He says other inmates, including those who have been disciplined for terrible acts in the jail, are still allowed to use recreational facilities, watch TV, read newspapers and have three video visits with loved ones per week. Smith said he misses conversations with his mother, siblings, loved ones and his pastor.
Smith also claims Hennepin County has interfered with the few video visits he’s been allowed, has tampered with and opened mail sent to him by his children and family members, which he told the judge is “a federal offense.”
He says jail officers and staff are aggressive and cruel towards him, treating him as “a lowlife who deserves to die.”
“Honestly, your honor… how would you feel in my shoes?” he asked Judge Engisch.
Smith went on to call the state’s case against him “propaganda and fictitious claims,' insisting he has been victimized and asking to be treated “lawfully and according to the law.”
Defense attorney Emmett Donnelly followed his client by telling the judge there is absolutely no evidence that Smith has used the phone to tamper with witnesses or attempt to get them to change their stories, saying the person Smith allegedly tampered with has gone on the record as saying it did not happen.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Erin Lutz countered by insisting there is strong evidence Smith tampered with state witnesses in the case, alleging he has made more than 100 calls using the access pin numbers of other prisoners since his privileges were taken away. Lutz says a number of those calls were to possible witnesses.
Lutz said Donnelly’s claims that Smith has been a cooperative prisoner and hasn’t had a writeup since late December are false. She said he has used threats of violence against jail staff and regularly refuses to follow directions and commands.
After hearing the arguments, Judge Engisch said she is taking the matter under advisement and will issue a decision shortly.
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