Tue | Apr 16, 2024

Godson, old friend convicted of killing Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay

Published:Wednesday | February 28, 2024 | 12:09 AM
Carlis Thompson, cousin of slain Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay, speaks to media outside the United States Eastern District Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday.
Carlis Thompson, cousin of slain Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay, speaks to media outside the United States Eastern District Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday.
 Jam-Master Jay
Jam-Master Jay


More than 20 years after Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay was brazenly gunned down in his recording studio, a jury convicted two men of his murder on Tuesday, bringing closure to one of the hip-hop world’s most elusive crimes.

The anonymous Brooklyn federal jury found Karl Jordan Jr and Ronald Washington guilty of killing the pioneering DJ over what prosecutors characterised as revenge for a failed drug deal.

Jay, born Jason Mizell, worked the turntables in Run-DMC as it helped hip-hop break into the pop music mainstream in the 1980s with such hits as It’s Tricky and a fresh take on Aerosmith’s Walk This Way.

Like the slayings of rap icons Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. in the late 1990s, the October 30, 2002, shooting remained unsolved for years. Authorities were deluged with tips, rumours and theories but struggled to get witnesses to open up.

“It’s no mystery why it took years to indict and arrest the defendants,” Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, told reporters after the verdict. He said key witnesses “were terrified that they would be retaliated against if they cooperated with law enforcement”.

Jordan, 40, was the famous DJ’s godson. Washington, 59, was an old friend who was bunking at the home of the DJ’s sister. Both men were arrested in 2020 and pleaded not guilty.

“Y’all just killed two innocent people,” Washington yelled at the jury following the guilty verdict.

Jordan’s supporters also erupted at the verdict, cursing the jury. “I love y’all,” Jordan said to the group who sat in the courtroom audience before they were escorted out after more yelling.

Lawyers for both men asked the judge to set aside the jury’s guilty verdict and acquit them.

“We’re optimistic,” one of Washington’s lawyers, Susan Kellman, told reporters. “My client did not do this. And the jury heard testimony about the person who did.”

The men’s names, or at least their nicknames, have been floated for decades in connection to the case. Authorities publicly named Washington as a suspect in 2007. He told Playboy magazine in 2003 he’d been outside the studio, heard the shots and saw ‘Little D’ – one of Jordan’s monikers – racing out of the building.

Surviving relatives of Mizell welcomed the verdict and lamented that his mother did not live to see it.


“I feel like I was carrying a 2,000-pound weight on my shoulders. And when that verdict came today it lifted it off,” said Carlis Thompson, Mizell’s first cousin, who wiped away tears after the verdict was read. “The wounds can start to heal now.”

Mizell had been part of Run-DMC’s anti-drug message, delivered through a public service announcement and such lyrics as “we are not thugs / we don’t use drugs”. But according to prosecutors and trial testimony, he racked up debts after the group’s heyday and moonlighted as a cocaine middleman to cover his bills and habitual generosity to friends.

“He was a man who got involved in the drug game to take care of the people who depended on him,” Assistant US Attorney Artie McConnell said in his summation.