From the outset, prosecutors described Smith as ticked off when Boughton honked and then waved at his drive. The defense argued he couldn’t drive and shoot, and suggested it was someone else in the car who opened fire.
After 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.
“It was the most painful experience of our lives,” she lamented, adding that Monday July 11 would have 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 when the shot was fired. Prosecutors plan to seek a harsher sentence, in part because the boy witnessed it. The shooting happened as Jay Boughton was driving his son home from a baseball game.
Harrison Boughton said the other car was “driving fast, coming close enough to knock us off the road”. He said his father honked and “ran over” the driver of that vehicle. Moments later he heard noise, broken glass and saw a circle at 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, along with other experts to testify about gun residue and other forensic evidence, including cellphone tower readings and research on social networks. A key exception was Smith’s girlfriend, Rondelle Hardin, who reluctantly took the stand on Day 3 of the trial.
His testimony connected some important points, including why Smith came to Minnesota from Decatur, Illinois. She also said she remembered Smith getting out of the driver’s seat of the SUV identified by police as the suspect’s vehicle.
Prosecutors also showed jurors Wednesday Facebook videos of Smith holding a weapon that investigators attributed 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 decision that opened the door for him to pursue an “alternative authorship” defense.
In an order issued Thursday morning, Engisch ruled that evidence of a photo showing Brandon Smothers, another passenger in the suspect’s vehicle, holding a weapon is admissible. Also allowed is evidence of sending and receiving text messages 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 full defense,” Engisch wrote. “The state argued forcefully that even though [Smothers] was holding a firearm, it was not the murder weapon. The jury may well disregard the defendant’s evidence or the defendant’s theory that [Smothers] is the shooter. It is, however, inappropriate for this court to assess the credibility of the offender’s alternative evidence presented when deciding his admission…”
One thing that helped investigators get closer to Smith as their suspect was a Facebook Live broadcast that showed Smith wearing similar clothing and carrying a similar purse to the one shown on surveillance video released 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.
Smothers’ photo, taken on July 7, shows him holding a similar-looking weapon.
“What we’ve been hearing 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’ve been hearing for a good part of the week is that he’s personally attacking Jamal… The personal attack is not evidence in this case.”
Smith, himself, spoke out – under oath – on Monday and, for the first time, specifically claimed that Smothers was responsible for the shooting.
“I’m not asking you to infer anything. I’m asking you to look at the actual evidence. Period,” Donnelly asserted. “The evidence indicates that Jamal Smith is not the shooter. The driver is not the shooter.”