MEMPHIS, Tenn. –
A judge removed himself from the Young Dolph murder case Friday after he was ordered to do so by a Tennessee appeals court, which questioned whether he could be impartial to a man charged with killing the rapper two years ago.
Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee asked the court clerk to assign a new judge in the high-profile case. The Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its order Sept. 28 after Coffee refused to step down at the request of the lawyer for Justin Johnson, who is charged with two other men in the fatal shooting of Young Dolph in November 2021.
The lawyer, Luke Evans, had argued that Coffee could not be impartial after the judge failed to inform him about an order limiting Johnson’s ability to communicate with people outside the jail other than Evans.
Johnson and Cornelius Smith have pleaded not guilty in the killing of Young Dolph, whose real name was Adolph Thornton Jr. The rapper, producer and independent music label owner was gunned down in a daylight ambush at a Memphis bakery, where he was buying cookies while back in is hometown to visit a sick relative and hand out Thanksgiving turkeys.
A third man, Hernandez Govan, has pleaded not guilty to organizing the killing, which shook Memphis and the entertainment world.