More than 20 years after his death, jury selection has begun in the trial of the suspects in connection with the death of Run-DMC DJ Jam Master Jay, CBS News reports.
Ronald Washington, 59, and Karl Jordan Jr, 40, who were arrested in 2020 have been charged for their alleged involvement in the murder of Jay, whose given name was Jason Mizell.
Jay Bryant, 49, a third defendant who is being held in custody on unrelated charges will head to trial for his connection to Mizel’s death later this year.
All three suspects are from Hollis, Queens, the community in the New York City borough where Run-DMC was founded.
On October 30, 2002, Mizell along with several others were present at his recording studio, 24/7 Studio, located on Merrick Boulevard in Queens.
According to prosecutors, Washington and Jordan entered the studio who were both armed with firearms Mizell was shot in the head at his studio. He was 37 at the time of his death.
The shooting shocked the music world, particularly the hip-hop community, which was still reeling from the death of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., several years earlier. It also caused an outcry about violence in hip-hop and how it impacts the culture overall.
Few clues were available at the time to New York City police to help apprehend any suspects, and a lack of cooperation from possible witnesses left the case cold for years.
The New York Times reports that Mizell had been allegedly trafficking cocaine and was said to have purchased 10 kilograms from a distributor in the Midwest “on consignment.” After they were excluded from the deal, Washington and Jordan hatched a plan to murder Mizell, according to court documents.
Prosecutors stated that Bryant was seen entering Mizell's studio that night by an eyewitness, along with the two other defendants. He later admitted to participating in the killing telling one person that he was the shooter, per the indictment.
César de Castro, Bryant's attorney said his client would plead not guilty.
“Securing an indictment in a secret grand jury, applying an extremely low burden of proof, is one thing,” Castro said. “Proving it at trial is another matter.”
Washington and Jordan, both pleaded not guilty to all charges of drug trafficking and firearms-related murder.
Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels came together in 1982 with Simmons' brother Russell, who had founded Def Jam Records to create a new sound in the emerging hip-hop landscape. After they graduated high school, Mizell, who had been spinning records in the community and also played bass and drums joined them. He introduced a unique style of scratching and cutting records using breakbeats that soon became commonplace for hip-hop DJing.
Their first single “It’s Like That/Sucker MCs,” released in 1983 on Profile Records helped their self-titled debut album go certified gold the next year Run-DMC went on to become one of the most prolific acts in hip-hop history and is regarded as one of the pioneering talents moving the genre forward with several more classic albums including King of Rock (1985), Raising Hell (1986) and Tougher Than Leather (1988).
Opening statements in the trial are set to begin on Monday, Jan. 29 in Brooklyn Federal Court.
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