Jam Master Jay’s alleged killers will not face death penalty

The suspected killers now face 20 years to life for the murder of the beloved hip-hop icon.

New information regarding the case against the men of killing Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay has been released.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland instructed the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s Office to not seek the death penalty against Jay’s (real name Jason Mizell) suspected killers, Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr. Mizell was 37 at the time of his death.

Mizell’s murder at his studio in Queens, New York City has been shrouded in mystery for nearly 20 years. Prosecutors believe it was the result of a drug deal gone bad: They hypothesize that Mizell, Washington and Jordan planned to sell cocaine in Maryland together, and Washington and Jordan sought revenge after Mizell cut Washington out of the deal in a last-minute decision — the motivation of which also remains unknown.

Jordan is believed to have fired the shot that killed Mizell while Washington allegedly pointed his gun at witnesses inside the studio to intimidate them.

Jam Master Jay Run DMC thegrio.com
Musical artists Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell (L), Darryl “DMC” McDaniels (C) and Joseph “DJ Run” Simmons (R) of the hip-hop group RUN-DMC attend a handprint ceremony during the group’s induction into the Hollywood RockWalk February 25, 2002 at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, California. Jam Master Jay, whose given name is Jason Mizell, was shot and killed inside a Queens, New York studio October 30, 2002, according to a group representive. Police, who say two unidentified men were shot around 7:30 p.m. local time, have confirmed that one man was dead on arrival at a local hospital. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

The case is now “cold,” but Mizell’s family and friends refused to let people forget about it. A 2020 ABC documentary, Set the Record Straight: The Jam Master Jay Case, revealed new details about Mizell’s case. The documentary, now streaming on Hulu, reportedly led to new leads.

The decision not to pursue capital punishment in the two suspected killers cases comes after a moratorium on federal executions imposed earlier this year. In September, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said they would review the charges to determine whether or not they would pursue capital punishment against Washington and Jordan.

“Our internal guidance on that is that our review policy has not changed; that we are still to go through our procedure,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Artie McConnell said at the time of reviewing the case. Garland also ordered a review of death penalty policy changes, which occurred under former President Donald Trump’s administration.

In 2020, both Washington and Jordan were charged with murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking and firearm-related murder. In a separate case, Jordan was also charged with conspiracy to distribute, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, and use of firearms in connection with a drug-trafficking crime, per the report.

Jam Master Jay murder arrest deejay thegrio.com
Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell holds a toy figure of himself at a ceremony honoring his hip-hop group RUN-DMC’s induction into the Hollywood RockWalk February 25, 2002 at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, California. Mizell was shot and killed inside a Queens, New York studio October 30, 2002. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

With the death penalty off the table, each defendant faces a minimum of 20 years in prison if convicted, with a maximum life sentence.

At the time of Washington and Jordan’s arrest, Mizell’s family expressed they had mixed emotions, telling Entertainment Tonight in an exclusive statement: “First and foremost, we want to thank everyone who has reached out in support of our family today. We appreciate your kind thoughts and words,” the statement read.

“Upon hearing this news, we have mixed emotions; we truly hope that these indictments are a solid step towards justice being served in the murder of Jay. We realize that there are other families out there who have lingering pain who continue to wait for their own closure, and we pray that this case gives them hope.”

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