The killing of Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay went unsolved for two decades. Now, two men face trial

More than 20 years after Run DMC star Jam Master Jay’s murder, two men are finally facing trial.

Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr are accused of killing the New York-based DJ in his recording studio in the city in 2002.

Prosecutors believe the musician, whose real name was Jason Mizell, was killed over a drug deal, but for two decades, the shooting went unsolved, with witnesses remaining tight-lipped.

A breakthrough in the case finally came in 2020 when two men from Mizell’s Queens neighborhood were arrested and charged.

The two men, both of whom have pleaded not guilty, began their trial at Brooklyn federal court on 29 January.

Here is what you need to know about the case:

Who was Jam Master Jay and what happened to him?

Jam Master Jay was the DJ for the hip-hop group Run DMC, one of the best-known rap acts of the 1980s.

The group, founded by Mizell alongside rappers Joe “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, were known for espousing an anti-drug stance in lyrics and for hits including “It’s Tricky” and a remake of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.”

They have also been credited with bringing hip-hop into the mainstream, becoming the first rap artists to appear on MTV.

The group disbanded after Mizell’s death, which rocked the hip-hop world.

For years, the star’s death lingered as a cold case, with witnesses reluctant to speak up despite more than $60,000 in reward money being offered for information.

Prosecutors allege Mizell was shot in the head inside his recording studio in Queens, New York, in 2002 after a drug deal went wrong.

According to prosecutors, Mizell became involved in trafficking cocaine in the mid-1990s and prior to his murder, he had acquired 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of the drug, which Mr Washington, Mr Jordan and others were going to distribute in Maryland.

Mr Washington, however, got into a dispute with another person involved in the scheme and Mizell cut him out of the deal. He and Mr Jordan then showed up armed at the DJ’s 24/7 recording studio in Jamaica, Queens, on the evening of 30 October 2002, prosecutors allege.

Mr Washington is accused of waving a gun and ordering one person to lie on the floor, while Jordan allegedly shot Mizell in the head, prosecutors said.

Who is on trial?

Jury selection in the trial of Mr Washington, 49, and Mr Jordan, 40, began on 29 January.

Prosecutors said the two men were arrested after witnesses identified them as the assailants. They also claim Washington has made statements corroborating his involvement to law enforcement and others.

A mural for Jam Master Jay in New York

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