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Judge reads riot act over delays in Jam Master Jay murder trial

Proceedings were set to begin this month, but an eleventh hour shake-up set them back until 2024.

BROOKLYN (CN) — Having belatedly entered a request for an anonymous jury in the trial over the 2002 murder of hip-hop legend Jam Master Jay, prosecutors endured a federal judge's wrath Thursday for setting back proceedings by nearly a year. 

Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington have been charged with killing the iconic Run-DMC member, whose full name was Jason “Jay" Mizell, at Mizell’s Queens recording studio on October 30, 2002. The unsolved murder case sat for nearly two decades before the defendants’ arrest and indictment in 2020. Both have pleaded not guilty. 

Six months after June 2022 motion deadline — Jordan and Washington's trial had been scheduled to start in February — the government requested in January that jurors’ names be kept secret. Picking anonymous juries requires extra time and questionnaire changes, however, so the move would delay the trial until January 2024. 

U.S. District Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall set the new date, only to receive another letter from prosecutors requesting that she move up the proceedings because options in the intervening months “were not fully explored.” 

The Obama-appointed Hall spent 30 minutes Thursday sharply rebuking that notion. 

“I don’t answer to you, so the fact that you don’t believe that I explored the summer months to your satisfaction is of no moment,” Hall said, addressing Assistant U.S. Attorney Artie McConnell, who occupied the first prosecutor chair but remained standing as the judge spoke. 

“This is going to serve you well moving forward,” Hall said. “Why don't you assume that I know how to manage my own docket? Why don’t you assume that I wear the robe and you don’t?”

The judge also criticized how prosecutors phrased their concerns about the delay in the 2-page letter, which says: “The government is also prejudiced by the extended delay, as one key witness has passed away during the pendency of the case and witness intimidation and tampering remain a significant concern.”

Hall asked her deputy to hand both parties a printout of an article from music website She said she faulted prosecutors for its salacious headline: “Key Witness In Jam Master Jay Case Turns Up Dead; Feds Seek To Expedite Trial.”

“Did it not occur to you," Hall asked, "that that might create the impression, the false impression, that that witness died as a result of conduct by either the defendants or someone acting on their behest? That somehow this death was the result of foul play?”

“No, it did not, judge, and that certainly was not the intent,” McConnell replied. 

“I don’t know if I believe that it was just sloppy,” Hall countered. 

Friends and family supporting Jordan filled several rows of seats of the hushed, and otherwise nearly empty, federal courtroom in Brooklyn. Hall made clear she did not intend to change the January 2024 trial date unless something changes to warrant her reconsideration. 

Defense attorneys had little to add following Hall’s castigation. 

“It really speaks for itself,” said attorney Michael Hueston, who represents Jordan. “I think the judge’s decision is appropriate and correct. 

Washington’s attorney Susan Kellman concurred: “I think the judge said it all.”

Categories:Criminal, Entertainment, Law, Media, Trials

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