Two men accused of murdering Run-DMC‘s Jam Master Jay will finally head to trial Monday (Jan. 29), more than 21 years after the rap icon’s killing.
Karl Jordan, Jr. and Ronald Washington, who were charged with Jay’s long-unsolved 2002 murder in 2020, will stand trial at a Brooklyn federal courthouse. Prosecutors say the two men killed Jay as payback after a failed cocaine deal; if convicted, they each face the possibility of life in prison.
Following the selection of a jury last week, opening statements are slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday. The trial, before U.S. District Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall, is expected to run for a month.
Run-DMC, a trio consisting of Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, is widely credited as one of the most influential early acts in hip-hop history. The trio’s 1985 release, King of Rock, was hip-hop’s first platinum album, and the group’s 1986 cover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Jay’s shocking 2002 killing had long been one of hip hop’s famous cold cases, joining the unsolved murders of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. Though witnesses were in the room when the murder happened, and police generated a number of leads, no charges were filed until August 2020, when prosecutors finally unveiled the case against Washington and Jordan.
According to charging documents and statements by prosecutors, Washington and Jordan broke into Jay’s studio on the night of Oct. 30, 2002. Washington allegedly initially pointed a gun at another individual in the studio; as he was doing so, Jordan allegedly fired two shots, one of which struck Jay in the head at close range, killing him almost instantly.
The motive for the killing was allegedly a drug deal gone bad. Prosecutors say Jay had arranged to purchase 10 kilograms of cocaine that would be distributed in Maryland by Washington, Jordan and others. When Jay backed out of the deal, prosecutors say, the two decided to kill him.
“The defendants allegedly carried out the cold-blooded murder of Jason Mizell, a brazen act that has finally caught up with them thanks to the dedicated detectives, agents and prosecutors who never gave up on this case,” prosecutors said at the time. “The charges announced today begin to provide a measure of justice to the family and friends of the victim, and make clear that the rule of law will be upheld, whether that takes days, months, or decades.”
Jay Bryant, a third man allegedly involved in the killing who prosecutors charged with murder last May, will have a separate trial later this year.
Ahead of the trial, Jordan and Washington argued that prosecutors waited too long to charge them, meaning they wouldn’t be able to properly defend themselves. For instance, Jordan said cell phone records that would support his alibi were no longer available, and that key witnesses would have trouble remembering information.
But in September 2022, the federal judge overseeing the case rejected those arguments, calling them “speculative” and unsupported by evidence: “The court has no idea what Jordan believes the phone records contain, how they could conceivably contradict the Government’s evidence, and how those contradictions could conceivably demonstrate that Jordan did not commit the crime.”