Man found guilty of murder in Twin Cities road rage killing

People stand at a mic and speak to reporters
Kristin Robinson Boughton and her brother Stephen Robinson, center, speak to reporters at the Hennepin County Government Center on July 21 following the conviction of Jamal Smith for the murder of Jay Boughton.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Updated: 6:35 p.m.

A Minneapolis jury on Thursday found a Chicago man guilty of murder in the shooting death of another motorist last summer on a Twin Cities highway.

Jamal Smith was convicted of first-degree intentional murder, second-degree murder during a drive-by shooting and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Before reading the verdicts, Hennepin County Judge Nicole Engisch urged the family of motorist Jay Boughton to keep “a poker face” and not react audibly. The family filled all of the gallery seats. They quietly sobbed at the verdict.

In the courthouse lobby, Boughton’s widow Kristin Robinson Boughton told reporters that her family has navigated the emotional trauma of the last year by choosing not to be angry.

“I want to first say that this family has stayed in the light. That has been our guiding force,” Robinson Boughton said. “We’ve stayed out of anger and we’ve stayed in the light. My children Harrison and Amalie have strength and courage. They keep me going.”

A woman shows her tattoo to a camera
Kristin Robinson Boughton shows reporters a tattoo she got following the July 2021 shooting death of her husband. She spoke at the Hennepin County Courthouse on July 21 following the conviction of Jamal Smith for the murder of Jay Boughton.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Prosecutors said Smith and two friends drove from Chicago to the Twin Cities on July 6, 2021. In Plymouth, Smith, who was driving, tried to get in the same U.S. Highway 169 lane as Boughton, a youth baseball team coach returning from a game with his son.

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Traffic camera video showed that Smith had plenty of space to get around Boughton’s pickup but that Smith chose to confront Boughton’s truck, said Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Dan Allard.

After Smith pulled into Boughton’s lane, Boughton honked and flipped his middle finger at Smith, who pulled his SUV back to drive alongside Boughton and then opened fire, prosecutors said.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony from Boughton’s 16-year-old son, Harrison, who said he heard a loud noise and saw the driver’s side window shatter.

Bullets struck Boughton’s head and neck, and his pickup crashed into the ditch.

Forensic experts testified that they found Smith’s DNA and gunshot residue inside the SUV recovered by police, which a Chicago rental car company had reported stolen. Smith also left a photo ID and a receipt with his name on it.

During his closing statement Tuesday, Smith’s attorney Emmett Donnelly said prosecutors’ gunshot residue evidence was faulty, and social media videos of Smith holding a gun prior to the shooting did not prove that he killed Boughton.

A man stands at a microphone and speaks to reporters
Stephen Robinson speaks to reporters at the Hennepin County Government Center on July 21 following the conviction of Jamal Smith for the murder of his brother-in-law Jay Boughton.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Donnelly noted that others in the video were also holding guns. He argued that it would have been difficult for his client to shoot accurately from a moving vehicle in the rain.

Smith said earlier in the week that he was not the shooter, and that one of his passengers fired the gun instead. He said he remembered hearing a boom from inside the vehicle.

While prosecutors said throughout the trial that the evidence points to Smith as the shooter, Allard reminded jurors that under Minnesota law, anyone who aids or conspires with another to commit murder is just as guilty as the person who pulled the trigger. 

Prosecutors have not charged anyone else in the case. 

In Minnesota, first degree premeditated murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. But Smith was convicted of intentional, though not premeditated murder. That means his sentence is likely to be life with the possibility of supervised release after 30 years.

Smith remains jailed ahead of his sentencing hearing.