The suspected Hwy. 169 road rage shooter said in court Friday that he did not fatally shoot a motorist during a freeway encounter this summer in Plymouth.
Jamal L. Smith's denial came during a Hennepin County District Court hearing, when the prosecution presented an indictment that now has Smith charged with first-degree murder.
The new count against Smith, 33, calls for a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole if he is convicted in the death of 56-year-old Jay Boughton of Crystal.
Given the most serious charge now facing Smith, District Chief Judge Toddrick Barnette raised bail by $2 million, to $3.5 million.
Smith's attorney was not available Friday to comment on the new murder count.
Smith, of Chicago, appeared via video Friday afternoon from jail. After hearing the newly filed charges, he complained to Judge Peter Cahill that he has seen his attorney only once since initially being charged and has not been able to see a copy of the indictment.
Cahill assured Smith that his concerns would be addressed in time for the next hearing, scheduled for Tuesday.
"I get that this is a high-profile case," Smith said, "but I'm not seeing that I'm getting a fair due process."
Smith went on to allege that the first-degree murder count was filed to raise his bail and ensure he will remain in jail as the case goes forward.
"I was charged with different charges beforehand, and now I'm being charged with something different ... for something that I literally didn't do," he said.
Smith now stands indicted on charges of first- and second-degree murder during a drive-by shooting and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. The weapons charge stems from Smith's convictions for unlawful use of a gun and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
He was initially charged with second-degree intentional murder and aiding an offender after the fact. Those charges were replaced with the ones contained in the latest indictment.
According to prosecutors, Boughton's son told police that an SUV pulled up alongside them July 6 as he traveled with his father on southbound Hwy. 169 near the Rockford Road exit. His father "gestured" at the SUV's driver, the son said, and within 10 seconds the driver's side window was shattered by a bullet and his father slumped over.
Police Chief Erik Fadden said soon after the shooting that it was prompted by "some sort of traffic altercation." Smith's SUV was in the left-hand lane and trailing Boughton in the right-hand lane. The SUV's right-turn signal light came on "as if to assume [Smith] wants to merge into the right lane," Fadden said at the time. Smith was arrested in Decatur, Ill., four days after the first round of charges were filed on Aug. 20. Two experts in human behavior who have reviewed the encounter have said the shooting was a clear act of road rage.
Prosecutors late last month leveled further allegations about the defendant, saying in a court filing that for weeks and months before the shooting Smith had "pointed guns at other motorists for minor reasons while driving."
The accusations were part of the prosecution's notice that it intends to bring up at trial a pattern of criminal behavior that is consistent with the charges leveled against Smith.
His attorney, Emmett Donnelly, has told the Star Tribune that these were "inadmissible allegations and character assassination. The public dissemination of such allegations destroys my client's right to a fair trial."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482