Jam Master Jay death: 'Brazen murder' of Run-DMC star was fuelled by greed and revenge, prosecutors say

Run DMC star Jam Master Jay was killed by his godson and a childhood friend who were both motivated by greed and revenge, say prosecutors, as the defendants' murder trial began.

The 37-year-old DJ, whose real name was Jason Mizell, was fatally shot in the head in his New York recording studio in 2002.

He was part of one of the best-known rap acts of the 1980s.

In 2020, Karl Jordan Jr and Ronald Washington were charged with murder and on Monday their trial got under way in New York City.

Prosecutors said godson Jordan and childhood friend Washington became enraged after being cut out of a lucrative drug deal.

Mizell had allegedly acquired 10kg of cocaine which Jordan, Washington and others were planning to sell in Baltimore.

However, the dealer involved in the sale refused to work with Washington, removing the defendants from a possible $200,000 (£157,000) payday, prosecutors alleged.

On 30 October 2002, the two men allegedly entered the star's studio in Queens in an "ambush".

Prosecutors say Washington waved a gun and told one person to lie on the floor, while Jordan shot Mizell in the head at point-blank range, killing him instantly.

Another shot hit and wounded another man in the studio at the time, Mizell's friend Uriel "Tony" Rincon, before the pair fled, prosecutors said.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, they could face at least 20 years behind bars.

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All you need to know about the trial

The death penalty is not being sought for either defendant.

The jury was told they would hear from witnesses who were in the studio that evening and that the pair confessed to others about their involvement in the incident.

Miranda Gonzalez, prosecuting, said it was a "brazen murder" adding: "Each defendant was proud that they had taken down Jam Master Jay and got away with it."

What does the defence say?

Jordan's lawyer, John Diaz, said his client wasn't even at the studio on the night of the shooting.

His legal team has said in court documents that Jordan, then 18, was at his pregnant girlfriend's home at the time of Mizell's death and witnesses could state that.

Washington's lawyer Ezra Spilke argued the case was held together with "tape and glue" and stated prosecutors have "no clue" who killed the DJ.

Mr Spilke questioned why Washington would want to kill Mizell since Washington relied on the rap star financially.

"Why bite the hand that feeds?" Mr Spilke said. "Why kill the one man that was helping you?"

A third man, Jay Bryant, was arrested and charged in 2023 and he will be tried separately in 2025 or 2026.

Run-DMC stood against drugs in their lyrics, but Ms Gonzalez said as careers waned, Mizell became involved in them and could make "hundreds of thousands" of dollars with a few simple calls.

The group also included rappers Joe "Run" Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and they had hits such as King Of Rock, It's Tricky and a reworking of Aerosmith's Walk This Way.