Jam Master Jay Murder Trial Ends in Conviction for Run-DMC DJ’s Godson and Childhood Pal

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A federal jury in Brooklyn has found two men guilty of the murder of Jam Master Jay, the trailblazing hip-hop artist and a member of the legendary trio Run-DMC who was gunned down in his recording studio in October 2002. The verdict on Tuesday brings to an end a weekslong trial but not the case as a whole, with at least one more defendant still set to be tried.

Ronald Washington, a childhood friend of Jay’s, and Karl Jordan Jr., the rapper’s godson, were convicted of murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking and firearm-related murder, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York announced. Jordan was also found guilty of several other counts of narcotics distribution.

More than three dozen witnesses were called by the prosecution over the course of the trial, which kicked off on Jan. 29, with prosecutor Miranda Gonzalez telling the court that Jay’s murder had been “motivated by greed and revenge.”

Federal prosecutors argued that Washington and Jordan killed Jay, real name Jason Mizell, after being boxed out of a 10-kilogram cocaine deal that might have otherwise netted them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Investigators believe that the two men entered Mizell’s studio around 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2002, having been let in by a third man, Jay Bryant. Ordering Mizell to lie on the floor, Jordan “put a 40-caliber bullet in his head, killing him in an instant,” Gonzalez said.

“It’s about greed. It’s about money. It’s about jealousy,” prosecutor Artie McConnell reiterated during closing arguments, according to CNN. “And it’s about the actions of two men, Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington, that the evidence proves are killers.”

But the pair’s lawyers argued that another person was behind the trigger that evening in Queens—Bryant, whose DNA was found on a scrap of clothing at the scene.

“They know who killed Jam Master Jay. They know it was Jay Bryant,” Washington’s attorney, Susan Kellman, argued in closing. “They have no case against anybody except Jay Bryant.”

The government does not believe Bryant to have been the triggerman in Mizell’s murder. But he was charged last May—nearly two years after Washington and Jordan—with murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking and firearm-related murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

In October, he successfully fought to have his trial severed, with his lawyers arguing that their defense strategy conflicted irreconcilably with that of his co-defendants.

Both Washington and Jordan face minimum sentences of 20 years to life in prison, according to prosecutors, who declined to seek the death penalty.

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