Judge issues temporary gag order in Highway 169 murder case

There is a new twist in the high-profile murder case of alleged Highway 169 gunman Jamal Smith.

A Hennepin County judge has put a temporary gag order in place for Smith’s upcoming trial in the deadly shooting of youth baseball coach Jay Boughton last July.

Smith has found himself in legal hot water for his jailhouse communications and the state believes he has crossed another line. Smith’s trial on 1st & 2nd degree murder charges is scheduled to begin June 27th.

Smith was arrested in Illinois weeks after the deadly, rolling encounter and his alleged SUV was captured on roadside cameras.

The now 34-year-old would soon lose his jailhouse phone privileges for alleged witness tampering and intimidation. He was accused of trying to get an acquaintance to delete critical evidence on Smith’s Facebook page and persuading witnesses to change their stories and not cooperate with the ongoing murder investigation.

Last week, the state claims, Smith used the jail’s video calling system to sit for a yet-to-be-published interview in which he discussed specific witnesses, their statements, and his opinion on their truthfulness.

Prosecutors said during a Monday morning motions hearing, they were extremely concerned Smith offered to provide evidence including witness transcripts for publication.

They have formally filed a motion for a gag order that would keep the parties, witnesses and attorneys from further discussing the case publicly through the trial. Hennepin County Judge Nicole Engisch has granted a temporary order while she reviews the matter more fully.

Local criminal defense attorney Marsh Halberg, who is not affiliated with the case, told FOX 9 that gag orders in Minnesota criminal trials are pretty unusual. But he added as a former prosecutor, he thinks the state might benefit the more a defendant speaks out.

"It seems that most times defendants talk themselves into more trouble than they can ever talk themselves out of. And so I like to give somebody as much freedom as I can," Halberg said.

Smith’s legal team has argued Smith is not the man who pulled the trigger, that two others were in the SUV at the time of the shooting and there is photographic evidence that will come out at trial to prove someone else might be responsible for killing Boughton.