MINNEAPOLIS — Prosecutors and defense attorneys have rested their cases following a day of important testimony Monday that concluded with defendant Jamal Smith testifying that he didn't shoot Jay Boughton, never saw Boughton's truck, and didn't even recognize the loud boom he heard as a gunshot.
Smith was the last witness to take the stand in the murder trial. Prosecutors say Smith killed Boughton in a fit of road rage last summer after Boughton honked his horn and gave Smith the finger when Smith aggressively tried merging into his lane on Highway 169.
The jury will begin deliberations Tuesday morning after both sides give closing arguments. They can also convict Smith of murder if they believe he wasn't the shooter but aided and abetted another person in committing the crime.
The prosecution rested its case Monday morning after a jail guard testified that Smith called himself a "nationwide murderer," boasting to the deputy, "Don't you even know who I am?"
After lunch, following 32 witnesses who testified against him in his murder trial, Jamal Smith took the witness stand himself.
Smith told the jury he felt "like an idiot" seeing his Facebook video played in court, in which he points a gun at the camera hours before Boughton was killed while driving next to him on Highway 169.
Smith testified that he heard a loud "boom" after his backseat passenger rolled down the window.
"What did you think that loud boom was?" Smith's lawyer asked.
"It kind of shell-shocked me. I really didn't know what it was. We drove through a storm. Thunder?" Smith replied.
Under cross-examination, with an incredulous tone, prosecutor Dan Allard asked, "A .45 caliber gun fired in this confined space, and you didn't know what made the boom?"
"It could have been thunder. It could have been a gunshot. I could have been shot," Smith said.
When directly asked by the prosecution, Smith specified that he claims his back seat passenger Brandon Smothers was the one who fired the shot that killed Boughton. Neither Smothers nor front seat passenger Antoine Smith have been charged in this case. They were both subpoenaed to testify, but the prosecution revealed that authorities could not track them down.
The case could be a difficult one for the jury because of the question of who in that SUV fired the fatal shot. The prosecution's case consisted of a lot of different evidence that pointed to Jamal Smith as, at the very least, the most likely shooter. The question will be whether they proved it beyond a reasonable doubt or whether he at least helped the shooter in the crime.
According to KARE 11's Lou Raguse, who was in the courtroom for the testimony, it's difficult to say if Smith helped himself at all with his testimony as the state was able to poke holes in elements of his version, but at the same time, he told it in such a way that he wouldn't be responsible for aiding and abetting if his story is to be believed.
In the course of cross-examination, Smith admitted to being a felon illegally in possession of a firearm, a crime that he is charged with as well.
Just before trial convened after its lunch break, the courtroom learned Jamal Smith would take the witness stand in his own defense. The news came after the prosecution rested its case earlier in the day.
When asked about Smith's Facebook videos in which he can be seen waving a firearm consistent with the murder weapon, Smith told the defense he felt "like an idiot" watching them in court.
As questions shifted toward the alleged crime, Smith told the courtroom he was driving on Highway 169 when he realized his GPS indicated his exit was approaching.
He said the backseat passenger, later identified as Brandon Smothers, began rolling the windows up and down because he was having "hot flashes," and the music was loud. He testified that he did not see Boughton's Silverado "at all."
Smith said the boom "shell-shocked" him, and thought because it had been raining already that night, he thought the sound could have been thunder. He said that's when he and his other passenger looked at each other and then back at Smothers to try to determine what happened.
Smith agreed with the defense that he never got an answer. He said he didn't instruct anyone to shoot a firearm from the vehicle and maintained he was not involved with Boughton's death.
During cross, Smith admitted that he let his friend bring three firearms into the vehicle that day, including the .45 caliber handgun shown by evidence to have been in his hand.
The prosecution then began poking holes in Smith's story about his GPS, pointing out that Smith was still multiple miles away from his intended exit when the shooting occurred. Smith, however, kept with his story and further, testified that he never heard a honk from Boughton as he switched lanes.
Finally, the prosecution got Smith to admit in his own words who he believed fired the deadly shot: Brandon Smothers. He also admitted that he asked his girlfriend to not cooperate with the investigation following the shooting, and to plead the Fifth instead of testify.
The defense rested its case following Smith's testimony, making way for closing arguments to begin Tuesday morning.
The state rested its case following what KARE 11's Lou Raguse called "explosive testimony" from a Hennepin County jailer who recounted an interaction he had with Jamal Smith while trying to protect a nurse who was handing out prescriptions to inmates.
Hennepin County deputy Bradley Swanson told jurors Smith butted in after he told another inmate who was harassing the nurse to knock it off. “He said, 'Do you know even know who I am?,'" Swanson told the courtroom. "I responded, "Yes, you’re inmate Smith,"" Swanson says Smith them told him, "I’m a nationwide murderer."
The deputy says he told Smith "I'll go ahead and write that down." "Go ahead and put that down," Swanson recalls Smith saying. "I don't care. I'm a murderer."
KARE 11's Lou Raguse says Smith's defense team desperately wanted to keep Deputy Swanson's testimony kept away from jurors. In cross examination, defense attorney Kellen Dotson pointed out that the exchange wasn't captured on video or audio recording, emphasizing for the jury that Smith didn’t specifically say he’s responsible for the murder of Boughton in Minnesota. Dotson said the defendant was in segregation, only getting one hour of sunlight and having no interaction with other inmates.
On redirect, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Erin Lutz was able to ask the deputy about Smith being in segregation for breaking jail rules, as the defense had opened the door to that line of questioning.
Deputy Swanson stepped off the witness stand and the state rested its case. Smith's defense team is expected to start building its case when court resumes following lunch break.
Plymouth Police Detective Dave Anderson was the first to take the stand as one of the lead detectives in building this murder case. Anderson told jurors that he interviewed Brandon Smothers, one of two passengers riding in the rented SUV with Jamal Smith when the fatal shot was fired, describing him as cooperative. Anderson testified he was not able to locate the other passenger, Antoine Smith, saying Smith was never in one location long enough to catch him or serve a search warrant.
The 21-year department veteran then described listening to "a couple hundred" jailhouse phone calls made by Smith while he was being held in Macon County, Illinois before being extradited to Minnesota. Anderson says during those calls Smith claimed "he didn't know anything" about a murder in Minnesota.
Prosecutors then played a recording of Smith in which he tells a woman on the line to “log out and delete my sh**”, referring to the Facebook profile where he posted a video of himself driving the SUV and holding a gun.
“I just want you to go in there and delete my whole page. Not deactivate it. Delete it,” Smith is heard saying. He then gives the woman his password.
The jury panel was told by Anderson that Smith talked on the phone with his girlfriend Rondelle Hardin nearly every day, and jurors listened to a recording of one of those calls. During the call Smith is heard urging Hardin not to talk with investigators. “There’s literally nothing you can offer them,” he says multiple times, adding, “you have a right to tell them I don’t have any information for whatever it is you're searching for."
In a second call Smith is heard telling his girlfriend "I'm not from Minnesota, never been to Minnesota..." which the prosecution wants the jury to see as part of what they call Smith's changing story.
Anderson testified that the phone calls continued when Smith was extradited to Hennepin County from Illinois, with hundreds of calls made using the PINs of other inmates to prevent authorities from accessing them. The detective says he figured out how to find those calls anyway, and jurors heard the defendant talking to a number of people apparently trying to persuade them to use the 5th amendment to avoid testifying.
Prosecutor Allard then turned his attention to a recorded call Smith made to KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse asserting his innocence. "Did the reporter ask where he was in the vehicle?" Allard asked Anderson. "He said he was driving the car (from which the fatal shot was fired)," Investigator Anderson answered.
Allard pointed out that even before the phone call with Raguse, DNA evidence had come back proving Smith was in the driver's seat of the Suburban.
During cross examination of Detective Anderson, defense Attorney Emmett Donnelly pointed out that Smith also said "the driver himself could not have made that shot" that killed Boughton. Donnelly also got Anderson to admit that after tracing the serial number of the gun Jamal Smith was holding in a Facebook video, police did not question the original purchaser of the weapon. Donnelly also made sure jurors know that particular gun also was never reported stolen.
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