Twin Cities road rage murder: Chicago man sentenced to life in prison

A woman speaks into a microphone at the courthouse
Kristin Boughton, widow of Jay Boughton, speaks to reporters at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis on Tuesday after the sentencing of Jamal Smith.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Updated: 4:03 p.m.

A man convicted in the road rage killing of a fellow driver in Plymouth last year was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

A Hennepin County jury in July convicted Jamal Smith of Chicago in the fatal shooting of 56-year-old Jay Boughton along U.S. Highway 169. Boughton, a youth baseball coach, was driving his son home from a baseball game at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutors said Smith, 34, 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 lane as Boughton.

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

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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

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.

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.

Speaking with reporters after Tuesday's sentencing, Boughton's widow, Kristin Boughton, remembered her husband as "so full of life and light, and his spirit of graciousness was his legacy."

She said the family was "staying in the light," and said the legal system served the family well.

Smith maintained he was not the shooter and that one of his passengers fired the gun. His defense argued that 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.

On Tuesday, Smith’s attorney Emmett Donnelly called the life sentence “cruel and unusual punishment,” noting that the two other men in Smith’s vehicle that night were never prosecuted and alleging the jury did not reflect the diversity of Hennepin County.

In his own lengthy statement, Smith called the prosecution a “witch hunt” and said he was “being held accountable for actions I did not do.”