COURTS & LEGAL

2 men found guilty of murder in 2002 killing of Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay

Feb 27, 2024, 2:48 PM

Jam-Master Jay...

Jam-Master Jay poses with teenagers gathered at New York's Madison Square Garden on October 7, 1986. (G. Paul Burnett/AP via CNN Newsource)

(G. Paul Burnett/AP via CNN Newsource)

(NEW  YORK CNN)Two men were found guilty of murder Tuesday in the 2002 killing of Jam Master Jay, the pioneering DJ of the groundbreaking hip hop trio Run-DMC, in a case that for decades frustrated detectives and music fans alike.

Ronald Washington, Jay’s childhood friend, and Karl Jordan Jr., Jay’s godson, were convicted of murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking and firearm-related murder.

A fight nearly broke out in the courtroom after the verdict was announced. “Y’all just killed some innocent people. Get me outta here,” Washington said as he got out of his seat. Jordan looked at his supporters and said “I love y’all.” Their supporters began shouting as both men were rushed out of the courtroom.

The federal jury first began deliberations last Thursday, but after a juror was dismissed and replaced by an alternate, they began deliberations anew on Monday at 1 p.m. In total, the jury deliberated for about 10 hours.

Carlis Thompson, Jay’s cousin, spoke outside court and lamented that many family members did not live to see this day.

“It’s definitely a long time coming. Justice delayed is not always justice denied,” he said. “Jason himself was an amazing talent. Life ended far, far too soon, and I’m just glad that justice was served.”

The verdict comes more than 20 years after Jam Master Jay, born Jason Mizell, was fatally shot at a recording studio in Jamaica, Queens, on October 30, 2002. For years, no one was arrested in the killing, leaving one of the most shocking shootings in music history unsolved.

Finally, in August 2020, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York unsealed a criminal indictment alleging Washington and Jordan conspired to kill Jam Master Jay in retaliation for a drug dispute.

A third defendant, Jay Bryant, was charged in May 2023 with murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking and firearm-related murder. He has pleaded not guilty and is set to go on trial separately in January 2026.

At this trial, a witness who was at the recording studio that night testified Washington and Jordan came in armed, and he alleged Jordan shot Jay in the head. The witness, Uriel Rincon, said he had kept the attackers’ identities secret because he was “confused and scared,” according to CNN affiliate WABC.

“It’s about greed. It’s about money. It’s about jealousy,” Assistant US Attorney Artie McConnell said in the prosecution’s closing arguments. “And it’s about the actions of two men, Karl Jordan, Jr., and Ronald Washington, that the evidence proves are killers.”

However, defense attorneys said in closing arguments that the real killer was Bryant. A hat found next to Jam Master Jay’s body contained only Bryant’s DNA, and Bryant was the only defendant seen on a security camera, according to the attorneys.

“Jay Bryant is literally reasonable doubt in this case,” said Michael Hueston, Jordan’s attorney.

“This is an attempt to make a mockery of the judicial system. They know who killed Jam Master Jay. They know it was Jay Bryant,” said Susan Kellman, Washington’s attorney. “They have no case against anybody except Jay Bryant.”

How Jam Master Jay pioneered a new sound

The trial comes four decades after Jam Master Jay teamed up with Queens friends Run (Joseph Simmons) and DMC (Darryl McDaniels) to form the hip-hop group Run-DMC.

With Jay scratching the turntables as DJ, the trio created a new sound and street look, with their Adidas gear, leather jackets, gold chains, and black Kangol hats. Together, they became the first hip hop group to reach mainstream popular music success, solidified by the rap-rock crossover “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith in 1986, as well as appearances on “Saturday Night Live” and on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Their song with Aerosmith was part of the triple-platinum selling album “Raising Hell,” which also included the hits “It’s Tricky,” “My Adidas” and “You Be Illin’.” The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

Run-DMC released a total of six albums between 1984 and 1993, with “King of Rock” and “Tougher Than Leather” also reaching platinum status. They were eventually overtaken in popularity by more hardcore rap in the 90s that explicitly talked about drug dealing and gang violence.

Run-DMC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 for their groundbreaking legacy.

“Run-D.M.C. was a group of firsts. The first rappers featured prominently on MTV, to appear on Saturday Night Live, to grace the cover of Rolling Stone, and to win a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award,” the Hall of Fame said. “They broke down barriers for future rap acts, crossed boundaries between rap and rock and dispelled old notions of what rap could be.”

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2 men found guilty of murder in 2002 killing of Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay