Closing arguments commence in murder trial of Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay

February 21, 2024 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
Closing arguments began on Tuesday in the murder trial of Jam Master Jay (seen here), of the legendary hip-hop group Run-DMC. Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington are accused of murdering Jay, whose real name is Jason Mizell, in 2002 following a bad cocaine deal.Photo: G. Paul Burnett/AP
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Closing arguments began Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court for the trial of two men accused of the murder of Jam Master Jay, the iconic DJ from Run-DMC, whose real name was Jason Mizell. 

The murder, which occurred more than 20 years ago in Mizell’s Queens recording studio, has seen Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington, both closely associated with Mizell, standing trial.

Prosecutors argue that Jordan and Washington, motivated by being excluded from a cocaine trafficking deal by Mizell, fatally shot him. The defense, however, has sought to undermine the prosecution’s case by highlighting its reliance on the “aging memories” of witnesses.

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The ongoing trial surrounding the murder of Jam Master Jay, a pivotal figure in the hip-hop world as part of Run-DMC, has cast a new light on a mystery that has puzzled the music industry and fans alike for over two decades. 

According to prosecutors, on the night of Oct. 30, 2002, Jordan and Washington entered the studio in Queens armed and with intentions linked to a soured cocaine trafficking deal. Mizell, seemingly unaware of the impending danger, greeted one of the assailants warmly. Lydia High, present in the studio to have Mizell sign paperwork, witnessed this chilling turn of events, marking the beginning of a mystery that would remain unsolved for over two decades.

This case, drawing parallels to the still-unsolved murders of other hip-hop legends like Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., has remained a point of intrigue and speculation, reflecting the darker intersections of fame, music, and crime. With the 2020 arrests of Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington, two individuals closely linked to Jam Master Jay, the legal proceedings have rekindled hopes for resolution and justice in a saga that has long awaited closure.

Jason Mizell, known professionally as Jam Master Jay, was not only a founding member of Run-DMC but also a respected influencer in the wider music industry. His work extended beyond the turntables and microphones; he was a trendsetter in fashion, a mentor to upcoming artists, and an advocate for social issues, notably taking a strong anti-drug stance. 

This public persona, characterized by a commitment to positive messaging and community upliftment, made the revelations from the trial even more striking and complex.

As the trial unfolds it has exposed a side of Mizell that was previously unknown or, at best, speculated about in hushed tones within industry circles. Testimonies have painted a picture of a man caught in a web of financial struggles, a stark contrast to the success and influence he enjoyed at the peak of his career. 

The decline in revenue from music, coupled with the pressures of maintaining a certain lifestyle for himself and those in his close-knit circle, reportedly led Mizell to engage in drug trafficking — a revelation that has sent ripples through the community and challenged the public’s understanding of his character.

The key witnesses at the trial were Lydia High, Ralph Mullgrav and Uriel “Tony” Rincon. Lydia High, the business manager for JMJ Records, testified about witnessing the friendly interaction between Mizell and one of the assailants before the shooting occurred. Ralph Mullgrav, an associate of Mizell, described Mizell’s involvement in drug dealing as a desperate measure to alleviate financial strains. Uriel “Tony” Rincon, injured during the incident, identified Karl Jordan Jr. as the shooter, overcoming years of silence due to safety concerns.

The trial has also brought to the fore Mizell’s struggles with financial stability towards the latter part of his life, despite his iconic status in the music industry. Witnesses described Mizell as a generous figure who supported his friends and family but turned to drug dealing as financial pressures mounted.

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