On what could be the last full day of testimony in 24-year-old Jamal Smith’s murder trial, prosecutors announced late Thursday that they will not be calling to the witness stand a jailhouse informant whose presence in the case sparked a firestorm of controversy last year.
Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater told Circuit Judge Charles Burton that prosecutors will likely rest their case in the murder of Kemar Kino Clayton Friday and will not call Cobia as a witness.
Cobia, a convicted murderer who prosecutors have listed as a witness in nearly two dozen other cases where he says he’s obtained confessions from other defendants, told deputies that Smith confessed his involvement in Clayton’s death while the two were housed together at the Palm Beach County Jail.
Smith’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey, has fought hard since last year to keep Cobia off the stand. Ramsey provoked the ire of Circuit Judge Jack Cox last year when she entered into court records last year transcripts of recorded jail calls between Cobia and his daughter that showed Cobia bragged about receiving special treatment for helping detectives build cases against his jail mates.
The Palm Beach Post published excerpts of those transcripts. Cox afterwards had the transcripts sealed, ordered reporters to remove excerpts from the newspaper’s website and sought criminal contempt charges against Ramsey for allegedly violating court orders.
An appellate court later overturned Cox’s ruling, and he later recused himself from Smith’s case, but Ramsey’s contempt case is still open.
As for Smith, who has argued that Clayton’s death was the result of an unintentional killing, the most damaging testimony against him now will likely be from co-defendant Quentin Lythgoe, who on Thuesday completed his testimony against his former friend.
Lythgoe told jurors that Smith lured Clayton to the parking lot of a Publix Supermarket on State Road 7 in Wellington under the guise of selling Clayton an iPad.
In exchange for his testimony, prosecutors dropped murder charges against Lythgoe, allowed him to plead guilty to robbery charges and capped a sentence recommendation at 15 years in prison.