Jury selection is underway in the fatal Hwy. 169 drive-by shooting in Plymouth last summer and the trial is expected to begin next week.
Alleged shooter Jamal Lindsey Smith, 34, of Chicago appeared in Hennepin County District Court on Monday facing first- and second-degree murder charges. He is accused of killing 56-year-old Jay Boughton the night of July 6.
Boughton, a youth baseball coach from Crystal, was driving with his teenage son in Plymouth when a brief altercation with Smith occurred on the road and Smith allegedly shot Boughton in an act of road rage. Smith, who was driving a rental vehicle with two passengers, pleaded not guilty and said someone else in the car pulled the trigger.
At the hearing, prosecutors and defense brought forth several motions concerning evidence and witnesses after a pool of 52 prospective jurors was instructed on the case and asked to complete a written questionnaire. They will be called throughout the week to attend individual interviews.
The majority of prospective jurors are white, which is an issue raised by defense attorney Emmett Donnelly, who filed a motion in early June to dismiss the first-degree grand jury indictment against Smith, who is Black, because there was not a jury of his peers. Of the 26 people assembled for the grand jury, two were Black.
Donnelly argues that Hennepin County assembles juries in a method that "results in the exclusion of non-white residents" and cited it as a systemic failure noted by former state Supreme Court Justice Alan Page three decades ago.
"The District Court has been keenly aware of this chronic underrepresentation since June 2020 and has failed to take any remedial action," Donnelly wrote in his motion to Judge Nicole Engisch.
Donnelly is asking that steps be taken to expand the jury pool by adding state tax filings as a juror source list. The county's jury selection process uses voter registration and driver's license information, but he told Engisch that tax filings are more likely to have current addresses and increase representativeness.
Engisch said she will issue an order on the defense motions and others presented by prosecutors, who initially charged Smith with aiding an offender and second-degree murder.
Prosecutors offered a final deal to Smith: plead guilty to second-degree murder and serve 30 years in prison and drop the other two charges of first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a gun. Smith declined to accept the offer, but he admitted to being prohibited from possessing a firearm due to prior convictions in Cook County, Ill.
Smith signed a stipulation for the gun charge that waived his right to have the jury determine he was prohibited from having a firearm.
He is being held on $3.5 million bail after being extradited from central Illinois following his arrest seven weeks after the shooting. And Smith's time in custody has been contentious.
A grand jury hearing last fall was delayed because he was being "too violent" in jail. Then prosecutors accused Smith of tampering with witnesses and pressuring a key witness to recant statements made to police. Prosecutors also allege that Smith was placing calls to people asking them to delete his Facebook account to hide evidence and tried paying someone $250,000 to kill a person for bothering his girlfriend.
Engisch revoked Smith's phone access as a result and imposed a gag order.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Smith would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.