The Jam Master Jay murder trial has seemingly hit a snag. According to court docs obtained by AllHipHop, key witness Lydia High has been accused of being “unreliable.” The Law Office of Ezra Spilke, who’s representing suspect Ronald Washington, recently fired off a letter to Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall. In it, he pointed out several “impairing factors,” including the suspect being partially disguised, a cross-racial and cross-ethnic identifications and identification procedures susceptible to bias.
“At this time,” the docs say, “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.”
High, who was at the studio on the night JMJ was killed, initially stated, “[T]wo black males entered the [sitting room] and both men had guns. Upon entering, one man remained in the doorway, the other man, who was wearing a knit wool mask and holding a gun, ordered Lydia [High] to the floor. 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.”
But, Spilke says her account is problematic and alleges High identified the wrong person. As he explains in the docs, “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.’
“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. 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.”
The defense intends to call to the stand Dr. Geoffrey Loftus, an experimental psychologist with expertise in human memory, visual perception and eyewitness identification, who will refute High’s recollection 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.”
Jam Master Jay was killed inside his Jamaica, Queen studio on the night of October 30, 2002. It took more than 20 years to indict Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr. to be indicted for the murder. The court has yet to set a date for trial.