Wrong men on trial in Jam Master Jay killing, defense lawyers tell jury

NEW YORK — The federal government knows who killed Jam Master Jay — and the killer’s not one of the two men on trial for the Run-DMC icon’s murder, the suspects’ defense attorneys said Wednesday.

In their closing arguments, the lawyers for Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald “Tinard” Washington blamed the DJ’s 2002 murder on another man, Jay Bryant — who confessed to his uncle about the killing, and whose DNA was on a hat found at the murder scene.

“Who is Jay Bryant? Well, Jay Bryant is literally reasonable doubt in this case,” Jordan’s lawyer, Michael Hueston, told the jury. “We have a single person [who is responsible], and they’re trying to make it three people … that’s the fiction that they’re presenting you.”

Bryant’s case was severed from the trial that played out over the past three weeks in Brooklyn Federal Court. He’ll face a separate jury in 2026.

Hueston contended that the memories of the government’s two key witnesses —Tony Rincon and Lydia High, who were both in Jam Master Jay’s Queens studio when he was killed — were corrupted by time, and by the prosecutors’ desire to “erase the past” to fit their narrative.

Rincon testified that he was inches away and saw Jordan, whom he knew, shoot Jay on Oct. 30, 2002. He also described how Washington forced High at gunpoint to drop to the floor.

High took the stand to identify Washington, and described the shooter as a light-skinned Black man with a neck tattoo, and Jordan has the words “Golden Child” tattooed on his neck.

Hueston focused on Rincon’s repeated use of the words “kind of,” which he peppered throughout his descriptions of what happened, to suggest that he was misremembering or lying on the stand.

“This is a nervous tic. It’s weird,” Hueston said. “He should just be able to have a clear memory of something.”

As for High, Hueston said she “looked tight up there. They felt almost coerced or pushed.”

Federal prosecutors have contended that Jordan and Washington teamed up with Bryant and had him enter Jam Master Jay’s studio on Merrick Blvd. in Hollis through the front door, while they waited for him to let them in through a rear fire escape.

According to prosecutors, the duo were motivated by revenge, because Jam Master Jay, real name Jason Mizell, cut them out of a $200,000 drug deal.

Susan Kellman, Washington’s lawyer, pointed out that Mizell didn’t cut anyone out of a drug deal — his buyer in Baltimore did because of bad blood with Washington, and Mizell tried to advocate on Washington’s behalf.

“Think about it. Who gets killed when a drug deal fails? Is it the guy who advocates to get you into a drug deal? No,” Kellman said.

She pointed out that Bryant matched the physical description given by Tanya Davis, an employee of an insurance company in the same building as the studio. Davis told police she saw a tall Black man with his hair in braids, walking with a limp, on a security monitor, coming in behind High as she arrived.

Initially, Davis said it looked like the two walked in together. But 14 years later, when interviewed by federal agents, she said they didn’t appear to be coming in together after all, Kellman said.

A camera was trained on the back door, Kellman said, but nobody saw Jordan or Washington on a security monitor. “Maybe, just maybe, they borrowed Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?” she asked.

Kellman also scoffed at Assistant U.S. Attorney Artie McConnell’s suggestion on Tuesday that Bryant’s hat was found in the studio because it fell out of Jordan’s pocket after he pulled out his gun.

“They’re making this up,” she said. “You have [Bryant’s] confession, you have evidence, you have DNA.”

“This is an attempt to make a mockery of the judicial system,” Kellman added. “They know it was Jay Bryant. What are we doing here?”

In the government’s rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Misorek pushed back on the defense lawyers’ suggestion that “we are doing things wrong” and putting Jordan and Washington on trial despite knowing they’re innocent.

“It’s not based on any evidence. It’s not based on any testimony. It’s pure speculation. It’s based on nothing,” he said, pointing out that the government put Bryant’s uncle on the stand, and introduced the hat into evidence.

Rincon and High were victims, he said, and they’re still living with the fear and trauma of the shooting.

“Tony knew from the day he got shot who did it. He just didn’t tell the police,” he said. “[Lydia] is not OK…. The shaking, the trembling, the praying. Every fiber of her being wanted this to be over.”

He added, “It was not easy for them to come in here. Twenty years did not make it easy.”

The jury starts its deliberations Thursday.