A judge in the Young Dolph murder case has removed himself after he was ordered to do so by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
Judge Recuses Himself from the Young Dolph Murder Case
According to a FOX13 Memphis report, published on Friday (Oct. 27), Judge Lee Coffee removed himself from the Young Dolph murder case involving suspects accused of killing the late Memphis rapper.
In documents obtained by XXL, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals filed paperwork on Sept. 28, 2023, ordering Judge Coffee to recuse himself from the murder case base on what they believe is his prejudicial actions towards defendant Justin Johnson, who is one of the murder suspects in the Young Dolph murder case.
In November of 2022, Judge Coffee revoked Johnson’s phone privileges after learning he released a rap song called “No Statements” through a jail phone. According to jail officials, Johnson, who also goes by the rap name Straight Drop (or Straight Dropp) didn’t break any jail policy by recording a song over the phone.
However, Judge Coffee Johnson filed a “DRT” order on Johnson that “would not be allowed him to use the phone or have any visitation privileges unless it is his attorney because of the inappropriate recording that he allegedly released and recorded while in jail,” documents from the Court of Criminal Appeals revealed.
In December of 2022, Johnson’s lawyer, Luke Evans, filed a motion to recuse Judge Coffee arguing the judge could not be impartial after he failed to inform him about an order limiting Johnson’s ability to communicate with people outside the jail other than Evans.
In July 2023, Judge Coffee denied that he was biased against Johnson and refused to remove himself. He also denied that he had seen or listened to the recording. Subseqeuntly, Evans filed an appeal to the Criminal Court of Appeals.
In their ruling, the Court of Appeals agreed with Evans stating in part, “It would appear to a reasonable person that Judge Coffee has a prejudice of a personal character, directed at the Defendant, stemming from an extrajudicial source. Based on these reasons, we find that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to recuse.”
So What Happens Next?
Justin Johnson, Cornelius Smith, Hernandez Govan and Jermarcus Johnson, who all have been charged in the murder of Young Dolph, will have to face a new judge the next time they are in court.
Initially, Judge Coffee set a March 11, 2024 trial date for the two defendants: Justin Johnson and Cornelius Smith. But it’s unclear how Coffee’s removal from the case would affect their trial date.
Meanwhile, Jermarcus Johnson, who is Johnson’s brother, pleaded guilty to three counts of accessory after the fact at a June 2023 hearing. But Jermarcus could be asked to testify against his brother in his upcoming trial.
Finally, Hernandez Govan, the man accused of organizing the murder of Young Dolph, has been out on bond since May of 2023.
If convicted, Justin Johnson would face life in prison without parole and would have to serve 51 years in prison before he could be eligible for release.
Check out FOX13 Memphis’ news report on the judge recusing himself from the Young Dolph murder case below.