Jam Master Jay’s continuing murder trial is in a difficult position as a result of the accusation that one of the prosecution’s main witnesses is “unreliable.”
Key witness Lydia High has been accused of misidentification in court records obtained by AllHipHop from the defense firm of Ezra Spilke, who is now defending alleged gunman Ronald Washington.
According to reports, Spilke noted “impairing factors” in High’s decision-making in a letter to Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall, including “the suspect being partially disguised, a cross-racial and cross-ethnic identifications and identification procedures susceptible to bias.”
“At this time, we anticipate that at least four of these factors will be at play here, namely: weapon focus; high stress triggered by aggressive behavior; a long delay between the event and the identification; and co-witness feedback,” the docs read.
The night JMJ was shot dead, Lydia High was at the recording studio. She first stated that “[t]wo black guys entered the [sitting room] and both men had firearms. One man entered and stayed at the doorway while the other, who was carrying a rifle and wearing a knit wool mask, told Lydia [High] to get on the ground.
“The man with the mask then ordered Mr. Mizell to the floor, at which time Uriel Rincon stood up to assist…Mr. Mizell. The man with the mask then shot Mr. Mizell, fired another shot and fled out of the doorway with the other man.”
Spilke contends that this is untrue and that “according to Ms. High, only the shooter was wearing a mask.”
“Ms. High, who was interviewed by the police shortly after the shooting, failed to identify as a participant Mr. Washington, whom she later told the authorities she had known for ‘numerous years,” Spilke wrote.
“Nine months after the shooting, Ms. High’s account changed in that she then knew the identity of one of the participants: Washington, whom she identified from a photo array.
He continued: “In identifying Washington, High told the police that he was the person who pointed a gun at her and told her to ‘get on the ground’ while the masked person shot Mizell.”
Dr. Geoffrey Loftus would most likely testify during the upcoming trial, according to the defense. They will utilize Loftus, an experimental psychologist who has knowledge of eyewitness identification, visual perception, and human memory, to oppose High’s recall of the crime.
“We anticipate that Dr. Loftus will first testify that the conditions of the event that Ms. High will be asked to recall strongly impeded her ability to form accurate memory of the event,” the docs continue. “These conditions include a likely lack of attention on Ms. High’s part to the shooters’ appearances, along with the high-stress and weapon-focus factors.”
They conclude: “Ms. High’s identifications of Mr. Washington from the photo lineup or in open court may be unreliable for multiple reasons. Dr. Loftus’s descriptions of these reasons to the jury will provide the jurors with critical scientific information based on which they can allocate appropriate weight to Ms. High’s identifications. For these reasons, Dr. Loftus’s testimony is relevant and will be helpful to the trier of fact.”
On October 30, 2002, Jam Master Jay was murdered inside his studio in Jamaica, Queens; 20 years later, Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr. were charged with the crime.
Although the jury selection process is allegedly under progress, the court has not yet set a date for the trial.