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Jam Master Jay Killing: Two Men Found Guilty Of Murder Of Run-DMC Star

Wednesday, 28 February 2024 06:44

By (C Sky News: Bethany Minelle, arts and entertainment reporter

Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay pictured in 1986, at an anti-drugs rally. Pic: AP

Two men have been found guilty of the murder of Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay.

His godson Karl Jordan Jr and childhood friend Ronald Washington were convicted of killing the DJ over what prosecutors said was revenge for being cut out of a cocaine deal.

The 37-year-old victim, whose real name was Jason Mizell, was fatally shot in the head in his New York recording studio in 2002.

It was one of hip hop's most infamous killings, along with those of rap icons Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

Making his closing arguments, assistant US attorney Artie McConnell told jurors that "20 years is a long time to wait for justice... don't let this go on for another minute".

Both Washington, 59, and Jordan, 40, pleaded not guilty to the murder and neither testified. After being convicted, Mizell's childhood friend yelled at the jury: "Y'all just killed two innocent people."

Jordan also told his supporters "I love y'all" as they became emotional, before he and Washington were escorted out of the New York courtroom by US marshalls.

They were both found guilty on charges of murder while engaged in a narcotics trafficking conspiracy, and firearm-related murder. A date for sentencing has not been announced.

Lawyers for both men said they've made a formal request for the judge to set aside the jury's guilty verdict and acquit them.

Run-DMC, who stood against drugs in their song lyrics, was made up of Mizell, Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels.

Their hits include King Of Rock, It's Tricky and a reworking of Aerosmith's Walk This Way.

Prosecutors in the US attorney's office in Brooklyn said that in the 1990s, Mizell turned to dealing cocaine to help fund his music career.

They said Jordan and Washington conspired to kill the musician after he cut them out of a drug deal in Baltimore worth nearly $200,000 (£157,000).

Washington 'seen at studio with gun'

Authorities had publicly named Washington as a suspect in Mizell's killing as far back as 2007.

Despite questions around his involvement, he told Playboy magazine in 2003 he'd been outside the studio in Queens when he heard gunfire, and saw "Little D" - one of Jordan's nicknames - running out of the building.

Two eyewitnesses - former studio aide Uriel Rincon and Lydia High, former business manager for Mizell - testified that Washington blocked the door and ordered Ms High to lie on the floor.

Ms High said she had seen Washington with a gun shortly before the shooting, while Mr Rincon said Jordan had approached the rapper and was exchanging a friendly greeting just before shots were fired. He also testified he was hit by one bullet.

Three others, including a teenage singer who was at the studio to push her demo tape, also testified they were in an adjoining room, saying that they heard - but did not see - the incident.

Other witnesses testified that Washington and Jordan made incriminating statements about the killing after it happened.

Witnesses 'terrified' of retaliation

Lawyers defending Washington and Jordan questioned the credibility of the witnesses, noting that some initially denied that they could identify the attackers or had heard who they were.

Susan Kellman, one of the defence lawyers, told the judge: "Virtually every witness changed their testimony 180 degrees."

Breon Peace, US attorney for New York's Eastern District, told reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict that "it is no mystery why it took years to indict and arrest the defendants".

"The witnesses in the recording studio knew the killers," he said, "and they were terrified that they would be retaliated against if they cooperated with law enforcement and identified the ruthless executioners of Mr Mizell".

Third suspect will be tried in 2026

A third man, Jay Bryant, was arrested and charged in 2023 over the murder.

The suspect, who is alleged to have allowed Jordan and Washington to enter the studio through the fire escape door, will be tried in January 2026, the US Department of Justice said.

During the case against Jordan and Washington, Bryant's uncle testified that his nephew told him he shot Mizell after the DJ reached for a gun - no other witnesses described this scenario.

Mr McConnell also said in court that Bryant was "involved, but he's not the killer".

Sky News

(c) Sky News 2024: Jam Master Jay killing: Two men found guilty of murder of Run-DMC star

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