MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee is removing himself from the case for the suspects accused of killing Memphis rapper Young Dolph.
An order issued Friday states that Coffee’s courtroom “hereby removes itself from conducting any further proceedings pertaining” to the cases of Justin Johnson, Cornelius Smith, Hernandez Govan, and Jermarcus Johnson.
The case will be sent to the Criminal Court Clerk to be reassigned. According to the order, on September 28, an appeals court reversed Coffee’s initial decision to reject a motion for recusal.
In July, Coffee set a trial date for Smith and Justin Johnson. That trial is set to begin on March 11, 2024. Both are charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and theft of property.
Jermarcus Johnson pleaded guilty to three counts of being an accessory after the fact in June and was released on bond. Prosecuting attorney Paul Hagerman said Jermacus Johnson was involved in Young Dolph’s shooting or in the planning beforehand.
Govan is facing conspiracy charges in Dolph’s death. Govan is accused of hiring Justin Johnson and Smith to kill him. In September, Coffee said he’s not anticipating Govan’s trial to begin soon.
Young Dolph, whose real name was Adolph Thornton Jr., was shot to death at Makeda’s Cookies in Memphis on November 17, 2021.
Justin Johnson and Smith were captured in January 2022. Johnson was arrested in Indiana, while Smith was arrested in Southaven, Mississippi, on an auto theft warrant that involved the vehicle believed to be involved in Dolph’s murder.
Govan was indicted in November 2022, nearly one year to the day of Dolph’s death. He was taken into custody days later. Jermarcus Johnson turned in to law enforcement in November 2022.