Plymouth road rage murder: Jamal Smith takes stand in trial

Both sides have rested their arguments in the case against alleged Highway 169 gunman Jamal Smith, who is charged with 1st and 2nd degree murder in the July 2021 deadly shooting that claimed the life of youth baseball coach Jay Boughton. 

Prosecutors have argued it was a case of road rage with Smith firing the deadly shot after Boughton flipped him off. It is alleged Smith was speeding and driving erratically when he swerved into Boughton’s lane on a rainy, dark night around 10 p.m. Boughton then reportedly honked his horn and gave Smith the middle finger. Boughton was shot once in the head, while his son sat next to him in their pickup truck. 

The 56-year old died at the hospital.

Jailhouse encounter: 'I am a nationwide murderer'

The state’s final witness of their case was Hennepin County jail deputy Bradley Swanson who testified about an alleged jailhouse encounter he had with Smith in December 2021. Swanson told the jury, he was providing security for a jail nurse who was making her rounds on the day after Christmas. Deputy Swanson said, while engaged with another inmate, Smith jumped in verbally. Swanson told him to mind his own business. That’s when Swanson recounted the exchange with Smith:

SMITH: Do you even know who I am?

DEPUTY: Yes, you are inmate Smith.

SMITH: Yes, I am a nationwide murderer.

DEPUTY: Ok, I will note that down.

SMITH: Ok put it in your notes, I don’t care. I’m a murderer.

Why wasn't it recorded?

On cross-examination, the defense questioned why Deputy Swanson is the only one who reported this exchange and why it was not recorded on his body-worn camera. Deputy Swanson said, while his camera was powered on, he did not have it recording, explaining he could not have anticipated the verbal exchange with Smith when it allegedly happened.

After the state rested, Smith’s defense attorney asked for a motion of acquittal, arguing prosecutors failed to provide any evidence that Smith was either the gunman himself or that he aided and abetted or otherwise conspired with anyone else in the Suburban SUV to shoot and kill Boughton last summer. Judge Nicole Engisch rejected the motion, leaving it up to the jury to eventually decide Smith’s fate.

Jamal Smith testifies

Smith offered a riveting 45 minutes of testimony on the witness stand Monday in his own defense. His attorney Kellen Dotson walked him through the events of July 6, 2021. Smith admits he was the driver of the suspected Suburban SUV involved in the fatal encounter with Boughton, but says he was not the one who pulled the trigger. 

He instead points the blame at backseat passenger Brandon Smothers, who is not charged in the case.

Smith says he was speeding southbound on Highway 169 to get to his girlfriend’s apartment – so fast that his GPS wasn’t keeping up – and he didn’t recall Boughton’s pickup truck.

He says Smothers rolled down the back window, and then "boom."

"I was shell-shocked. I didn’t know what it was – a gunshot, thunder," he testified. "It was loud. It could have been anything."

With Boughton’s family looking on from the gallery across the courtroom, Smith became upset and frustrated, wiping his eyes a couple of times.

Under a fierce cross-examination from prosecutor Dan Allard focused on Smith’s shifting story throughout the investigation, he insisted the three men in the SUV did not discuss what happened in the moment.

Smith admitted he was not allowed to have the guns in the vehicle as a convicted felon – there were three at the time of the shooting – but Smith insisted they were brought on the road trip by the third buddy in the group Antoine Smith (no relation).

Neither Antoine Smith or Brandon Smothers testified at trial. Both sides rested their case on Monday, with Smith being the only witness called by the defense.

Judge Engisch has told the jury to expect to hear closing arguments and begin their deliberations on Tuesday.