14 July 2023

Two suspects in fatal shooting of rapper Young Dolph to stand trial in March

14 July 2023

A judge has set a trial date for two men charged in the killing of rapper Young Dolph in a daytime ambush at a bakery in Memphis, Tennessee.

Justin Johnson and Cornelius Smith are scheduled to stand trial on March 11 in the fatal shooting of the Memphis-born rapper, Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee said during a hearing.

Johnson and Smith have pleaded not guilty to charges including first-degree murder in the November 2021 shooting of Young Dolph, 36, whose real name was Adolph Thornton Jr. A motive for the killing has not been disclosed.

The rapper, label owner and producer was buying cookies near his boyhood home in Memphis when he was shot by two men who drove up to the bakery in a stolen Mercedes Benz, authorities said.

Two other men have been charged in the killing.

Jermarcus Johnson, the half brother of Justin Johnson, pleaded guilty on June 9 to three counts of accessory after the fact, and he could testify at the trial.

Jermarcus Johnson acknowledged that he helped the two suspects communicate by cellphone after the killing while they were on the run from authorities, and that he helped one of them communicate with his probation officer after the killing.

During questioning by prosecutor Paul Hagerman, he also acknowledged taking possession of car from Justin Johnson.

The car was not the one connected to the killing, Mr Hagerman said. Jermarcus Johnson also identified a photo in which Justin Johnson was wearing the same clothing as one of the two shooters accused of shooting Young Dolph the day the rapper was killed.

After Jermarcus Johnson’s plea hearing, Mr Hagerman said he had no role in the actual killing of Young Dolph, but that he was one of “multiple players” who did things connected to it.

Another man, Hernandez Govan, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy in the case. He is accused of arranging the killing. Govan has been released on bond.

Young Dolph was known in Memphis for his charitable works and his success as an independent musical artist and businessman. Young Dolph had been in the city to visit a sick relative and hand out Thanksgiving turkeys at a church when he was killed.

After his death, Memphis named a street after him and the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA honoured him during a game. Murals of the rapper have been painted around the city and a pop-up museum featuring him was opened earlier this year.

The bakery, Makeda’s Homemade Cookies, became an impromptu memorial site for the rapper. It was closed for months after the shooting, but has since reopened.

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