Jam Master Jay’s ongoing murder case has found itself in a tough spot after one of the prosecution’s key witnesses has been accused of being “unreliable.”
In court documents obtained by AllHipHop, key witness Lydia High has been accused of ID’ing the wrong person by the law office of Ezra Spilke, who is currently representing accused shooter Ronald Washington.
Spilke reportedly wrote a letter to Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall, noting “impairing factors” in High’s judgment, 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.
Lydia High was present at the recording studio the night JMJ was gunned down and initially claimed that “[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 alleges that this was incorrect 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.”
The defense said it will likely call Dr. Geoffrey Loftus to the stand during the forthcoming trial. Loftus is an experimental psychologist with expertise in human memory, visual perception and eyewitness identification, who they will use to directly push back against High’s recollection of the murder.
“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, Queens studio on October 30, 2002, with Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr. being indicted for the murder 20 years later.
The court has yet to set a date for the trial, but jury selection is reportedly underway.