New York jury finds two men guilty of 2002 murder of Run-DMC rap pioneer Jam Master Jay

NEW YORK – A jury on Feb 27 found two men guilty of the 2002 murder of Run-DMC rap pioneer Jam Master Jay, who was fatally shot at his New York City recording studio, in one of the most infamous killings in rap history.

Ronald Washington, 59, and Karl Jordan Jr, 40, were convicted of federal charges of murder while engaged in drug trafficking in the shooting of Jam Master Jay, the stage name of Run-DMC founding member Jason Mizell, the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn said, on the X social media platform.

The verdict came after a month-long trial at the US District Court in Brooklyn.

Both men were well known to Mizell, who prosecutors said was killed in a business dispute over a lucrative deal to distribute cocaine in Baltimore. Washington was a childhood friend, and Jordan was Mizell’s godson. All of them grew up in the same neighbourhood in the New York City borough of Queens.

In the 1980s, Mizell and his Run-DMC bandmates helped usher hip-hop into the mainstream with hits including It’s Tricky and the cover of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way, from the best-selling 1986 album Raising Hell.

In their lyrics and stage shows, they were known to advocate against illegal narcotics. The group even recorded a Just Say No! anti-drug public service announcement in the late 1980s for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

But as Mizell’s music-industry success waned in the 1990s, he turned to dealing cocaine to help fund his music career, according to prosecutors in the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

During the trial, prosecutors called witnesses who were in the studio the night that Mizell, 37, was shot dead on Oct 30, 2002, including Mizell’s friend Tony Rincon, who was shot in the leg that night by one of Mizell’s killers. They also called witnesses who told jurors that Jordan and Washington confided to people close to them that they were the killers.

Prosecutors said Jordan and Washington conspired to kill Mizell after the musician cut them out of the drug deal in Baltimore worth nearly US$200,000.

Lawyers defending Washington and Jordan both bluntly told the jury that the defendants did not kill Mizell. The defence called a single witness, an expert who testified on the frailty of human memory, in order to discredit prosecution witnesses recounting decades-old events.

Washington and Jordan face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of at least 20 years.

In May, a third defendant, Jay Bryant, was also indicted in the murder and is due to face a separate trial in 2026.

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