The trial over the murder of the renowned rapper Young Dolph has taken an unexpected turn now that Judge Lee Coffee, who was initially presiding over the case, has been ordered to step down by the Court of Criminal Appeals.
This decision has added another layer of complexity to an already high-profile and emotionally charged case.
Young Dolph was shot and killed in November 2021 in Memphis as he shopped for cookies at his favorite bakery, Makeda’s Homemade Cookies.
Four individuals, Justin Johnson, Jermarcus Johnson, Cornelius Smith, and Hernandez Govan, have been charged in connection with his murder.
The reasons behind Judge Coffee’s recusal stem from a dispute involving one of the defendants, Justin Johnson, also known by his rap alias “Straight Drop.”
Upon discovering this, Judge Coffee reportedly contacted the chief jailer and ordered Johnson to be placed in administrative isolation, despite the jail’s conclusion that Johnson hadn’t violated any rules by recording the song.
This action made Johnson’s lawyers question Judge Coffee’s impartiality, prompting him to request the judge’s recusal. Although Judge Coffee initially declined this request, the decision was later appealed.
The Court of Criminal Appeals, in its ruling, stated that “it would appear to a reasonable person that Judge Coffee has a prejudice of a personal character directed at the defendant.”
With Judge Coffee’s departure from the case, the trial will now be overseen by a new judge. This means that Justin Johnson, along with co-defendants Jermarcus Johnson, Cornelius Smith, and Hernandez Govan, will face a different judge the next time they appear in a Shelby County courtroom.