2nd day of deliberations underway in Jamal Smith trial
MINNEAPOLIS -- More than 10 hours of deliberations thus far is still not enough for a jury to reach a verdict in the trial for Jamal Smith, the man accused of gunning down youth baseball coach Jay Boughton.
In a note to Judge Nicole Engisch Wednesday afternoon, the jury signaled it had reached a consensus on two of three counts levied against Smith, but members were "not sure" they could reach a consensus on the murder charge. The jurors then asked the judge what would happen to the other counts if the 12-member jury could not come to a unanimous decision.
"It is not unusual to not reach a consensus at this point," the judge responded, adding how "it's difficult to get 12 people to agree on anything."
She then instructed the jury to return to its deliberation room and continue its discussions.
According to investigators, Smith allegedly shot Jay Boughton on July 6, 2021 , after the drivers had an altercation on Highway 169 in Plymouth. In the days following the incident, the police chief called the shooting "one of the most tragic events" he's witnessed in his 20 years of policing.
"The point he made was 'He will not disrespect me,'" Prosecuting Attorney Dan Allard said of Smith in his closing statement. "So he pulls out a gun, aims, and kills a man. The science shows you it had to be a shot from the front seat...this is what the science says, and this shows you the defendant fired the shot."
Prosecutors called more than 30 witnesses and shared more than 100 exhibits over the course of the seven-day trial which began on July 11. Smith has been charged with three crimes: murder, aiding and abetting a murder, and illegally possessing a weapon.
Recapping the week-long trial
From the outset, prosecutors described Smith as ticked off when Boughton honked and then gestured at his driving. The defense maintained there was no way he could drive and shoot, and implied it was someone else in the car who opened fire.
Following the opening statements, the prosecution called its first witness -- the victim's wife of 17 years, Kristin Boughton, who tearfully recalled her experience the night her husband was killed.
"This has been the most painful experience of our lives," she lamented, adding that Monday, July 11, would've been Jay's 58th birthday.
The victim's 16-year-old son, Harrison Boughton, was also called to the stand. He was in the vehicle at the time of the shooting. Prosecutors plan to seek a stiffer sentence, in part because the boy witnessed it. The shooting happened as Jay Boughton drove his son home from a baseball game.
Harrison Boughton said the other car was "driving fast, getting close enough to make us swerve out of the way." He said his dad beeped his horn and "flipped off" the driver of that vehicle. Moments later he heard noise, glass breaking, and saw a circle in the window. Their vehicle crashed and he called 911.
Prosecutors also presented audio of Harrison Boughton's frantic 911 call.
Subsequent testimony had come almost exclusively from law enforcement, plus other experts to testify about gun residue and other forensic evidence, including cell phone tower readings and social media sleuthing. A key exception was Smith's girlfriend, Rondelle Hardin, who reluctantly took the stand on day 3 of the trial.
Her testimony connected some important dots, including how she's the reason Smith came to Minnesota from Decatur, Illinois. She also testified that she remembers Smith getting out of the driver's seat of the SUV that was identified by police as the suspect's vehicle.
Prosecutors also showed jurors Facebook videos Wednesday of Smith holding a weapon that investigators traced to the shooting.
Hardin, however, also testified about two other people in the car, and the defense noted that they also had weapons. Smith's defense team then won a critical concession from the judge; a ruling that opened the door for him to pursue an "alternative perpetrator" defense.
In an order released Thursday morning, Engisch ruled that evidence of a picture showing Brandon Smothers, another passenger in the suspect's vehicle, holding a weapon is admissible. Also allowed is evidence of text messages being sent and received on Smothers' phone on the night of the alleged attack, but not the messages themselves.
"All defendants of a crime have the constitutional right to present a complete defense," Engisch wrote. "The state has argued strenuously that while [Smothers] was holding a firearm, it was not the murder firearm. The jury could well disregard Defendant's evidence or Defendant's theory that [Smothers] is the shooter. It is, however, inappropriate for this court to assess the credibility of the proffered alternative perpetrator evidence when ruling on its admission..."
One thing that helped investigators close in on Smith as their suspect was a Facebook Live broadcast that showed Smith wearing similar clothes and carrying a similar handbag to one shown on surveillance video posted shortly after the shooting. The Facebook Live broadcast also showed Smith brandishing a semi-automatic handgun, from which authorities were able to determine a serial number.
The photo of Smothers, taken on July 7, shows him holding a similar looking weapon.
"What we have heard for the better part of a week is not evidence," Emmett Donnelly, one of Smith's two defense attorneys, told the jury during Tuesday's closing arguments. "What we have heard for the better part of a week is attacking Jamal personally... The personal attack is not evidence in this case."
Smith, himself, took the stand - under oath - on Monday, and for the first time specifically claimed Smothers was responsible for the shooting.
"I am not asking you to infer anything. I'm asking you to look at the actual evidence. Period," Donnelly asserted. "The evidence speaks that Jamal Smith is not the shooter. The driver is not the shooter."
Deliberations will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.