Judge from Young Dolph Murder Case Ordered to Recuse Himself
According to Revolt, in a recent turn of events, the state appeals court has ordered Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee to step down from the murder case. This decision was reached on Friday, Oct. 27, following concerns raised by the defense team. The move to recuse Judge Coffee comes about a month after a lawyer representing one of the suspects, Justin Johnson, expressed doubts about the judge’s ability to preside over the case impartially. Notably, on Sept. 28, Judge Coffee had initially rejected a motion for a new judge.
According to the outlet, the lawyer, Luke Evans, contended that Coffee failed to inform Johnson about a communication and visitation order restricting Johnson from interacting with individuals outside of the jail, except for Evans. Evans further claimed that the judge issued this order without proper notification or a hearing. While Evans characterized the judge’s decision as “punitive,” Coffee argued that the communication restrictions were implemented to protect Johnson and maintained that he had not determined Johnson’s guilt or innocence.
The case involves Johnson and another suspect, Cornelius Smith, who were apprehended in Indiana and Mississippi in January 2022. Both men are facing charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and theft of property in connection with Young Dolph’s death, the outlet reports.
In November 2022, Jermarcus Johnson, a relative of Justin, turned himself into the police and was charged with conspiracy to first-degree murder for allegedly assisting Justin in evading the authorities. In June, Jermarcus entered a guilty plea for being an accessory after the fact as part of a plea deal, securing his release on a $25,000 bond.
The fourth suspect in the case, Hernandez Govan, was indicted in November 2022. He faces charges of conspiracy for allegedly orchestrating the hiring of Justin and Smith to carry out the murder of the Memphis rapper. The trial for Justin and Smith was originally scheduled to commence on March 11. It remains unclear whether Judge Coffee’s recusal will affect this trial date. The Criminal Court Clerk will oversee the reassignment of a new judge.