2 Men Found Guilty of Murdering Jam Master Jay, Run-DMC D.J., in 2002


Two men were found guilty on Tuesday of killing of the D.J. Jason Mizell, known as Jam Master Jay, of Run-DMC, bringing a long-sought conclusion to a case that had confounded investigators and left rap fans grieving for over 20 years.

Karl Jordan Jr., 40, Mr. Mizell’s godson, was charged with firing the fatal bullet into Mr. Mizell’s head in 2002. Federal prosecutors said that Ronald Washington, 59, a longtime friend of Mr. Mizell, carried out the killing with Mr. Jordan, motivated by revenge after they had been cut out of a potentially lucrative drug deal.

Mr. Mizell was 37 when he was shot point-blank in his Queens recording studio, not far from Hollis, the neighborhood that birthed Run-DMC and other hip-hop acts in the 1980s. The group’s name referred to its emcees: Joseph Simmons, known as Run, and Darryl McDaniels, known as DMC. With Mr. Mizell providing the beats, the trio brought hip-hop to the mainstream in the mid-80s, selling millions of records, collaborating with the rock band Aerosmith and signing a deal with Adidas, whose sneakers were part of their uniform.

By 2002, Run-DMC’s fame had dimmed and Mr. Mizell had turned to the drug trade to support his family and retinue, prosecutors said. They argued that greed and revenge had driven Mr. Washington and Mr. Jordan to kill Mr. Mizell, and that the pair had enlisted a third man, Jay Bryant, who is to be tried separately in 2026.

The prosecution presented 35 witnesses over the monthlong trial, ranging from drug dealers to some of Mr. Mizell’s closest contacts, and evidence including ballistics and graphic autopsy photos. The most important witnesses were those who saw the killing: Lydia High, who worked for Mr. Mizell’s record label, and Tony Rincon, an assistant.

Mr. Rincon, who identified Mr. Jordan as the shooter, suffered a bullet wound to the leg in the ambush. Ms. High said she could not see the shooter’s face but that Mr. Washington had held her at gunpoint as the killing took place.

Both Ms. High and Mr. Rincon spent years denying they knew who was responsible for Mr. Mizell’s death. Mark Misorek, a prosecutor, said that Mr. Jordan and his family and friends had intimidated them and other witnesses, preventing the case from being solved. Only after the case was reopened in 2016 were investigators able to amass enough material to move forward, leading to charges against Mr. Washington and Mr. Jordan in 2020.

“Time solved this case,” Mr. Misorek said.

But defense lawyers attacked the credibility of those two witnesses and others, questioning why their accounts had changed over the years — and whether their memories could be clear more than 20 years after the crime.

The first charge against the three men was murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking, and prosecutors called several witnesses who testified that Mr. Mizell had been working as a middleman in big cocaine deals in the years before his death.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Washington and Mr. Mizell had traveled to Baltimore to arrange a deal for 10 kilograms of cocaine, worth more than $100,000, shortly before the latter’s death.

But a dealer there objected to Mr. Washington’s participation, spurring Mr. Washington and Mr. Jordan to plan the killing as revenge, prosecutors said.

The murder took place in Mr. Mizell’s studio on Merrick Boulevard on the evening of Oct. 30, 2002. Prosecutors said Mr. Bryant had played a bit part, arriving at the studio and propping open a back door for the two men to use.

Mr. Mizell and Mr. Rincon were sitting on a couch playing video games. Ms. High, who was subpoenaed in the case, testified that she had stopped by briefly to get Mr. Mizell to sign some paperwork. Mr. Mizell had a gun out, which made her uncomfortable, she said.

She broke down several times on the witness stand as she testified that a man walked into the studio, whom Mr. Mizell stood up to greet with a smile. But then Mr. Mizell shouted an expletive, and she heard a shot.

Ms. High screamed and jumped to run toward the door, but another gunman blocked her.

“It was Tinard,” she said, using Mr. Washington’s nickname.

She did not identify the gunman who fired, saying that she only remembered that he was a light-skinned Black man with a neck tattoo — a description that matches Mr. Jordan.

Sean Piccoli contributed reporting.


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