Plymouth road rage murder: Cell photo data placed suspect in area of shooting
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (FOX 9) - Thursday morning’s trial testimony was highlighted by witness Danni Knight who traveled to court from his Wisconsin home.
Prosecutors called Knight to talk about an interstate encounter he had with what is believed to be the suspect Suburban earlier in the day of July 6, 2021. Jay Boughton was shot and killed later that night.
Knight testified he was on his way home from work on I-90 in Wisconsin when a light-colored SUV came speeding up on his bumper. He brake-checked the motorist. He told the jury, "the next thing I know, I had a gun pointed at my windshield."
He confirmed he saw a gun from the driver's seat, "hands out the window, pointing a handgun."
Knight says he struggled to identify the driver in his rearview mirror, reporting only that the driver was black with dreadlocks. Jamal Smith has dreadlocks.
Knight reported, he hit the accelerator in an attempt to outrun the vehicle, but could not. He said he grabbed his cell phone and pretended to record the vehicle in hopes that would scare away the SUV that he estimates was going between 85 and 90 miles per hour. Knight said, he eventually noticed the SUV had all its windows down and he had three guns pointed at him. He eventually called 911 to report the incident. He confirmed, no gunshots were fired.
On cross-examination, Jamal Smith’s defense team asked Knight about his call to 911, inquiring if Knight initially told dispatch that he saw 4 or 5 men in the vehicle. He insisted, he did not. And that he only saw 3 men, "all pointing guns."
Prosecutors asked whether he flipped off the motorist, as has been alleged Boughton had done to enrage Smith, Knight confirmed he did not give the occupants of the SUV the middle finger.
Witness testimony continued Thursday with Plymouth Police Department digital forensics investigator Nicholas Benesch. Benesch reviewed surveillance video of the suspected Suburban both before and after the deadly encounter along Highway 169. He also reviewed phone records and Facebook accounts of those involved.
Subsequent testimony from Plymouth Police digital forensics investigator Nicholas Benesch on Thursday revealed cell phone locator records determined JAMAL SMITH'S phone was in the Wisconsin Dells area, in the same general vicinity at about the same time as Knight's reported gun pointing incident. That was less than four hours before Boughton was shot to death.
Rondelle Hardin, Smith's girlfriend, testified in court Wednesday, telling the court she did not want to take the stand and was compelled to do so only after receiving a subpoena.
Hardin also told the court she and Smith still talk by phone every day despite a court order barring communication between the defendant and the witnesses.
During Hardin's testimony, she said she rented the SUV for Smith last year. Smith and two others with him were apparently on their way to Hardin’s St. Louis Park home when the deadly road rage incident unfolded.
At one point in the investigation, Hardin apparently told authorities she saw Smith get out of the driver’s side door of the vehicle when they arrived, but her testimony changed during the trial, and told the jury she only remembered seeing him walking up to her front entryway.
Another apparent discrepancy in Hardin's testimony is whether she saw Smith with a gun in his hands later that night outside a nightclub. Hardin now says she only saw the firearms in the vehicle, but not in his hands.
Prosecutors have alleged Smith pressured Hardin to change her story.
The jury also heard the analysis of the DNA and gunshot residue from inside the suspected suburban SUV. The analysis indicated that the gunshot was likely fired from the front end of the vehicle. DNA evidence showed that Smith’s DNA was on the gear shift and the steering wheel.
The defense continues to argue that legally it should be allowed to introduce into evidence that someone else inside the vehicle fired the deadly shot, specifically backseat passenger Brandon Smothers.
Smothers has been subpoenaed to court, but his current whereabouts are unknown. It’s unclear if Smothers will testify during the trial.
The wife of the victim Jay Boughton sat in the front row of the courtroom gallery wearing a yellow shirt under her cardigan, a nod to keeping her husband's light alive. Just a day earlier, the judge ordered supporters not to wear yellow in mass numbers over concerns about the emotional influence it may have on the jury.