June 14th, 2024

Trial in the fatal daytime ambush of rapper Young Dolph reset to September

By Adrian Sainz, The Associated Press on June 3, 2024.

FILE - Rapper Young Dolph performs at The Parking Lot Concert, Aug. 23, 2020, in Atlanta. On Monday, June 3, 2024, a judge reset the trial date for Justin Johnson, who is charged with killing the rapper in a daytime shooting ambush at a cookie shop in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn. (Photo by Paul R. Giunta/Invision/AP, File)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – A judge on Monday reset the trial date for a man charged with killing rapper Young Dolph in a daytime shooting ambush at a cookie shop in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Shelby County Judge Jennifer J. Mitchell set a Sept. 23 trial date for Justin Johnson, 26. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Young Dolph, who was buying cookies when he was gunned down in November 2021 at a bakery located near his childhood home.

Johnson’s trial had been set to start Monday. However, prosecutors and Johnson’s lawyer filed a joint motion May 22 asking the judge to delay the trial to allow them to present expert witnesses to discuss cellphone location records.

Mitchell ruled in February that the trial jury will come from outside of Memphis because of intense media coverage of the 36-year-old rapper’s slaying, which shocked Memphis and the entertainment world.

Authorities have said two men got out of a stolen Mercedes-Benz and fired shots into Makeda’s Homemade Cookies before fleeing. As they searched for the suspects, police released photos taken from surveillance video that captured the shooting.

Cornelius Smith Jr. also has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in the shooting. A trial date for Smith has not been set.

Young Dolph, whose real name was Adolph Thornton Jr., was a rapper, producer and independent music label owner. He was gunned down while he was visiting his hometown to see a sick relative and hand out Thanksgiving turkeys.

Known for his depictions of tough street life and his independent approach to the music business, Young Dolph was admired for charitable works in Memphis. Along with the Thanksgiving turkey giveaways, he donated thousands of dollars to high schools and paid rent and covered funeral costs for people in the Castalia Heights neighborhood where he was raised. A neighborhood street was named for Young Dolph after his death.

Two other men also have been charged in the killing.

Hernandez Govan has pleaded not guilty to organizing the killing. A trial date has not been set for him. Jermarcus Johnson pleaded guilty in June 2023 to three counts of serving as an accessory after the killing by helping Smith and Justin Johnson, his half-brother.

Jermarcus Johnson acknowledged helping the two shooting suspects communicate by cellphone while they were on the run from authorities and helping one of them communicate with his probation officer. Jermarcus Johnson will not likely be sentenced until after a trial in the case.

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