MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Jamal Smith has been sentenced to life in prison for fatally shooting youth baseball coach Jay Boughton on Highway 169 in Plymouth in July 2021.
After a fit of road rage on the highway, Smith, who was in a vehicle with friends, fatally shot Boughton as he drove home with his son after a baseball game. Smith was convicted in July of first-degree murder and second-degree murder in Boughton's death.
Smith was sentenced on Tuesday, Oct. 4, to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years. This was the expected sentence – Minnesota law states first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence. During the hearing, Judge Nicole Engisch found reason for upward departure during sentencing because the crime was committed in front of a child, Boughton's son, and the deadly shooting on Highway 169 created a "greater than normal" danger to safety.
While the state asked for the mandatory life sentence to be imposed, the defense argued otherwise. Smith's attorney said until local juries better reflect the diverse Hennepin County community, verdicts will be "Difficult to accept" and it would be "unconstitutional" to sentence Smith to life given the facts of this case. He added, "This is an innocence project case waiting to happen."
Smith, who appeared via Zoom, spoke before his sentencing, saying he has "No respect" for the judicial system and his family "has been afraid" to show up in court given the "slander of the media" and "ignorant statements" from prosecutors. He called the case a "Witch hunt."
Show of support for Boughton family
In the courtroom on Tuesday, there was a show of support for the Boughton family with people wearing yellow in solidarity, while his family provided victim impact statements ahead of Smith's sentencing.
Boughton's wife Kristin and her two children stood together at the podium to provide statements. Boughton's teenage daughter called Boughton "My best friend and my hero." His son Harrison, who was in the vehicle with him when he was fatally shot, said, "The past year sucked … He was the best dad ever."
"Evil will not have the final word today," Kristin Boughton said during the hearing. She told the court, they woke up on July 6, 2021, "A happy family of four. We went to bed a broken family of three."
Boughton's 81-year-old mother also provided a victim impact statement, speaking about the senseless shooting 455 days ago. She said her husband suffers from dementia but even in his state, he is hurting and understands loss. Recalling at one point, he wanted to "get a gun" to go shoot Boughton's killer. She ends her statement by telling Jamal Smith to get help for his extreme anger.
"I don't hate Mr. Smith, but with all my being, I do hate guns. Especially what he did with his gun," she said.
The Boughton family played a touching video of Boughton through the years in court. The family asked the media not to share the video outside the hearing, but it included lots of laughs and voicemail messages.