Editor's note: The above video originally aired on Sept. 2, 2021.
Audio recordings of jailhouse phone calls made by the suspect in this summer’s Highway 169 shooting, which allegedly consist of witness tampering, could soon be made public depending on the judge’s order.
The defense attorney for Jamal Smith, charged with first-degree murder in the death of youth baseball coach Jay Boughton, argued for the calls to remain sealed. The prosecution filed them along with a motion to revoke Smith’s phone privileges.
From the time he first appeared in court Smith was ordered to have no contact with witnesses who may testify in his trial.
On Oct. 22, prosecutors filed the motion after learning about "problematic" calls he had made from both the Macon County Jail in Illinois and the Hennepin County jail. They alleged Smith had called various witnesses asking them to delete social media accounts, stop talking to investigators and to plead the fifth in court and invoke their right to not testify, among other things.
The state also said Smith called people to engage in violence against other individuals on his behalf while jailed in Macon County.
Smith denied the allegations, and filed a memorandum opposing the state's motion.
Last month, Judge Engisch ruled in favor of the state after listening to the 13 phone calls.
On Wednesday, Smith appeared in a Zoom call Omnibus hearing before Judge Engisch. His attorney, Emmett Donnelly, argued against allowing the phone calls to be made public. Donnelly said it would create prejudicial pretrial publicity for his client and that the public and media has no right to access jail calls and many other aspects of incarceration.
Although jail phone calls are generally considered private data, court exhibits are presumed to be public data. KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse made that argument during Wednesday’s omnibus hearing, adding that several video exhibits in the Derek Chauvin case were filed and made public prior to the trial, even though some of them were not allowed to be used in the actual trial.
Prosecutors say Smith fired a shot that killed Boughton in July while trying to merge into Boughton’s lane on Highway 169 in Plymouth. Police found a Facebook live stream video of Smith in the vehicle earlier that day, waiving a gun that they say was used in the shooting.
Judge Engisch said she would take the matter under advisement, which means she will issue a written ruling at a later time.
Another court hearing for Smith is scheduled for Jan. 3, 2022.