The Young Dolph murder trial now has to find another judge to preside over the case, per an appeals court order brought by the attorneys for one of the defendants.
According to The Associated Press, Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee recused himself as of Friday (October 27) and asked the clerk of the court to assign a new judge to the high-profile case.
Coffee’s recusal came as a result of a motion filed by Luke Evans, the lawyer for the co-defendant Justin Johnson, who claimed that Coffee couldn’t 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,” per the AP.
Coffee all but confined Johnson to administrative segregation — meaning that he would be “denied all telephone, writing, and visitation privileges (excluding attorney visitation) until the disposition of this case” — as a result of the release of a song back in 2022 called “No Statements,” which was reportedly recorded on a contraband cell phone.
According to Evans, Coffee’s order against his client was “punitive,” since he didn’t let the defense know that he was issuing the order before he did so, and the appeals court agreed.
Coffee had set the trial date for March 11, 2024, but it’s not clear whether this date will continue to stand now that he’s recused himself. It’s also not clear when a new judge will be named to preside over the case.
According to Billboard, Johnson and his co-defendant Cornelius Smith have pleaded not guilty to a myriad of charges, including first-degree murder.
A motive for the killing has not been disclosed.
The murder case appeared to hit a roadblock over the summer when an individual whom law enforcement considered a “person of interest” was shot and killed. According to ABC24, Joshua Taylor was found dead on the corner of Spottswood Avenue and Buntyn Street in the Orange Mound district of Memphis.
Authorities had no leads and as a result, were asking the public for their help in identifying his potential killer or killers. Taylor, who also went by the name “CEO Teezy,” was first named as a person of interest in Dolph’s murder in February 2022 alongside Devin Burns.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Smith were arrested and accused of being the prime shooters. Both were given ultimatums to find defense lawyers and according to court documents, Smith obtained a lawyer while Johnson was appointed one.
At the time, Jemarcus Johnson, 26 — who was accused of helping two people (Justin Johnson — who is Jemarcus’s brother — and Cornelius Smith) evade police capture after Young Dolph’s murder — pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
He also admitted to taking possession of his brother’s cell phone and car so authorities would not think Justin was in Memphis. He faces between six and 12 years in prison for his role in Dolph’s murder.
“Conspiracy is a wide range of things,” Shelby County prosecutor Paul Hagerman previously said in court. “They include people that were acting in the conspiracy before the murder happened. But also the people that were acting afterward. The charges that have been filed now against Jemarcus make it clear that he did things afterwards.”
Jemarcus’ plea came shortly after it was revealed his brother Justin was caught with drugs and a cell phone while held in the Shelby County Jail.
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