Over 20 years after his murder, two men are facing trial for Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay’s death.

On October 30th, 2002, Jam Master Jay, real name Jason Mizell, was shot and killed in his recording studio in New York City. Prosecutors believe the death was an execution, as he was shot in the head over a failed drug deal. According to Vulture, prosecutor Miranda Gonzalez told jurors in her 20-minute opening statement that the killing “was motivated by greed and revenge.”

Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr., who have pleaded not guilty, are accused of killing the legendary DJ and began their trial on January 29th in Brooklyn federal court. Washington, who is a childhood friend of Mizell, and Jordan, who is the DJ’s godson, ambushed Mizell as they were cut out of a remunerative drug deal. The pair were arrested back in 2020, and authorities state that a third suspect, Jay Bryant, was arrested in 2023 and will be tried in either 2025 or 2026 separately. Years after witnesses remained unforthcoming and a $60,000 reward remained neglected, the pair was able to be arrested after witnesses identified them as the aggressors. In addition, Washington has given statements validating his involvement with law enforcement.

Both Washington and Jordan are charged with murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking and firearm-related murder. If convicted, both men can face at least 20 years in prison, as the death penalty is not a possibility.

Run-DMC incorporated an anti-drug standpoint in their lyrics and public messages throughout the years, but allegedly, by the mid-90s, the group’s money started to decline, which led Mizell to pursue other forms of income. According to The Guardian, prosecutors believe Mizell became involved in trafficking cocaine acting as a middleman. In August 2002, Mizell and Washington went to Baltimore for a deal, but the distributor only desired to work with Mizell, forcing Mizell to leave Washington out of the deal. Jordan had hoped to get action through Washington but was also left out.

On the night of October 30th, 2002, Mizell was on the sofa in his recording studio, playing video games with a pistol at hand. Jay Bryant walked through the front of the building and let Jordan and Washington in through the back entrance. Jordan paced to the studio, faced Mizell, pulled out a gun, and “put a 40-caliber bullet in his head, killing him in an instant,” scorching the hair and skin of his head.

Despite the allegations, John Diaz, who is Jordan’s lawyer, kept his opening statement brief, declaring, “Karl Jordan did not kill Jason Mizell.” Ezra Spilke, who is Washington’s lawyer, stated that Mizell and Washington “were like family.” Therefore he questioned, “Why kill the one person you can depend on?”

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