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Decades-long cold case resurfaces as jury selection commences in murder trial of Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay

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Jurors began the selection process on Monday for the trial surrounding the tragic murder of Jam Master Jay, the groundbreaking DJ of iconic hip hop group Run-DMC, who was fatally shot in his Queens studio over two decades ago.

The trial, focused on the events of October 30, 2002, when Jason “Jay” Mizell was killed at the age of 37, has gained momentum after federal prosecutors in August 2022 indicted suspects Ronald Washington, 59, and alleged shooter Karl Jordan Jr, now 40, both hailing from Hollis, Queens.

The charges include murder linked to narcotics trafficking and firearms-related murder. Jordan, who was 18 at the time, faces additional counts related to narcotics distribution.

The motive, as per court documents, revolves around Mizell’s involvement in acquiring cocaine, leading to an internal dispute and ultimately a murder plot.

Run-DMC, known for their hits like “It’s Tricky” and “Christmas In Hollis,” had a reputation for opposing violent gang culture in hip hop, making the murder particularly shocking. Investigators initially explored various motives, including a theory involving a grudge against rapper 50 Cent, but that was later dismissed.

The trial adds another chapter to the slew of murders in the rap community in the 1990s, following the deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.

Run-DMC, alongside LL Cool J and Public Enemy, pioneered new school hip hop, characterized by rock elements and sociopolitical commentary. Their influence extended to golden era hip hop, with hits like “My Adidas” and a groundbreaking rap-rock version of “Walk This Way.”

Despite Mizell’s tragic end, his legacy endured as a local talent cultivator in New York, working with aspiring rappers and founding a DJ Academy.

As the trial unfolds, the jurors remain anonymous, and opening statements are slated for January 29. While there was a possibility of the death penalty, it was ruled out in 2021 by US Attorney General Merrick Garland. In a recent development, a third defendant, Jay Bryant, 50, faces separate charges in a superseding indictment filed in May 2023.

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