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2 men found guilty of murder in Jam Master Jay killing

Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington were accused of killing Jam Master Jay — born Jason Mizell, who co-founded Run-DMC in the early 1980s — in a drug deal.
/ Source: NBC News

A jury found two men guilty of killing hip-hop icon Jam Master Jay in a New York City recording studio in 2002, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said.

Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington were accused of killing Jam Master Jay — born Jason Mizell, who co-founded Run-DMC in the early 1980s — in a drug deal.

Jordan and Washington face at least 20 years behind bars and a maximum of life in prison. Prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty against them.

Trial set to begin for 2 accused of killing Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay over 20 years ago
Jam Master Jay in 1986.Sebastian Piras / Redux file

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York have said that Mizell got involved in cocaine trafficking in the mid-1990s as Run D.M.C.’s notoriety was fading.

Authorities have said that Mizell had acquired 22 pounds of cocaine that Washington, Jordan and others were going to distribute in Maryland.

Prosecutors have alleged that when Mizell informed Washington that he wouldn’t be part of the distribution, the defendant hatched a “murder conspiracy” against the music star.

At 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30, 2002, Washington and Jordan entered a 24-hour recording studio in Queens where Mizell was and ordered him to lie on the floor, prosecutors said.

Jordan allegedly fired two shots at close range, with one fatally striking Mizell in the head, prosecutors said. Jordan was 36 when the charges were announced in 2020; Washington was 56.

“They murdered him in cold blood,” Seth DuCharme, then the acting United States attorney, said when charges were announced.

In 2007, when Washington was on trial for a string of armed robberies, he was first mentioned as a possible suspect in Mizell’s slaying. He has maintained that he had no involvement.

DuCharme in 2020 credited a new team of prosecutors and investigators with cracking the almost two-decade-old case.

Jordan, who was 18 years old at the time of the attack, has said he was at the home of his girlfriend that night, and witnesses can corroborate that assertion, his lawyers said in court documents, according to The Associated Press. His defense also reportedly said in court documents that Mizell and Jordan’s father were lifelong friends.

He also faced gun and cocaine charges and has pleaded not guilty to those allegations.

In May 2023, a third defendant, Jay Bryant, 49, was charged with murder after prosecutors said they had proof he was also at the recording studio the night of the slaying.

It was later determined that he would be tried separately.

Bryant’s lawyer, César de Castro, told the AP last year that the charge was the result of “a low burden of proof,” and suggested prosecutors would have an uphill battle.

Offered an opportunity Tuesday night to weigh in on his client’s case, de Castro sent information on a ruling in favor of a separate trial and the case’s scheduling. He said the trial was scheduled for January 2026. 

Mizell was Run-DMC’s DJ, but he also contributed to its crisp, bottom-heavy sound, lending live drums, bass and keyboards to studio sessions. Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and Joseph “Run” Simmons are the other two founding members.

“Walk This Way,” the trio’s 1986 mashup with Aerosmith, is often cited as its lightning-in-a-bottle moment, which came two years after it released “Rock Box,” another song with head-banging guitar chords.

Music publication Okayplayer said Run-DMC wasn’t trying to appease rock-loving white audiences; the three were trying to one-up the bombast of Billy Squire’s 1980 hit “Big Beat.” They were planting a flag for hip-hop’s vitality.

This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.