Jam Master Jay: Trial over Run DMC star's murder kicks off with jury selection

New York, New York - Jury selection began Monday in the trial over the murder of Jam Master Jay, the Run-DMC DJ who was killed in his New York studio two decades ago.

The trial over the decades-old murder of Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay kicked off with jury selection.
The trial over the decades-old murder of Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay kicked off with jury selection.  © Collage: MATT CAMPBELL / AFP & IMAGO / Everett Collection

The trial is centered on the events of October 30, 2002, when the pioneering rap star Jason "Jay" Mizell was fatally shot in the head. The artist was 37 years old and a father of three.

The infamous murder was in limbo as a cold case for nearly two decades, until federal prosecutors in August 2022 announced a 10-count indictment against suspects Ronald Washington (59) and Karl Jordan Jr, the alleged shooter who is now 40.

All three men hailed from Hollis, Queens.

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Both defendants are imprisoned in Brooklyn, and face charges of murder while engaged in drug trafficking, as well as firearms-related murder. Jordan, who was 18 at the time of the alleged crime, also faces several additional drug counts.

In May 2023 prosecutors filed a superseding indictment that charged a third defendant, Jay Bryant, now 50. He will be tried separately, according to a court spokesperson.

According to court documents, the motive was linked to Mizell's acquisition of cocaine that was intended for distribution in Maryland by a group including Washington and Jordan.

An internal dispute resulted in Mizell cutting Washington out of the deal, which according to prosecutors led to the murder plot.

Police explored multiple Jam Master Jay murder theories

The killing of Jam Master Jay in October 2002 came as a shock and reverberated far beyond Queens.
The killing of Jam Master Jay in October 2002 came as a shock and reverberated far beyond Queens.  © MATT CAMPBELL / AFP

The killing was particularly shocking given the reputation of Run-DMC, a 1980s-era hip hop group known for hits including It's Tricky and Christmas In Hollis. The trio regularly railed against violent gang culture, which in the early 1990s became associated with rap music.

Over the years, investigators had explored a number of possible motives – including that the fatal shooting involved a grudge against fellow Queens-born rapper 50 Cent, who was Jam Master Jay's protégé. That theory was later dropped.

Jam Master Jay's slaying followed a spate of murders within the rap community in the 1990s, including the shootings of superstars Tupac Shakur and The Notorious BIG.

Jurors will be anonymous, and opening statements are currently scheduled for January 29.

Cover photo: Collage: MATT CAMPBELL / AFP & IMAGO / Everett Collection

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