Jurors in the trial of two men charged with killing Memphis rapper Young Dolph, born Adolph Thornton Jr., in 2021 will come from outside of Memphis because of intense media coverage of the fatal shooting in the rapper’s hometown, a judge ruled.
Judge Jennifer J. Mitchell decided in favor of a change of venue motion filed by Justin Johnson’s lawyer, Luke Evans. The trial will remain in a Shelby County courtroom with jurors brought in from outside the county and is still scheduled to begin on June 3 following a May 3 status hearing.
In a February 2 hearing, Evans claimed that a fair trial would not be possible due to the high intensity of media coverage in the wake of Dolph’s passing.
“Since the time of the victim’s death in this matter, the victim has been portrayed in the media as a philanthropist, a ‘hero,’ and the ‘king of Memphis,’ ‘a trailblazing creative’ whose life was dedicated to giving back to the community… In contrast, the media focused on the accused’s ‘history of violent crime,’” attorney Luke Evans wrote.
“This isn’t even a roadblock or anything like that. This just means for a couple of days we will go somewhere and get a group of citizens and bring them back here and ask them to do the right thing,” Deputy District Attorney Paul Hagerman told the media.
Dolph’s fiancée, Mia Jaye, wants all parties involved in the tragic killing to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
“This is a premeditated offense and should be charged as a capital murder case. We won’t accept a slap on the wrist as satisfactory justice,” she wrote in a November open letter.
Justin Johnson and his alleged co-conspirator, Cornelius Smith, are charged with first-degree murder, criminal attempted first-degree murder, unlawful carrying and possession of a firearm, employment of a firearm with intent to commit a felony and theft of property.
Johnson and Smith are two of three suspects awaiting trial in connection with Dolph’s death. Hernandez Govan is out on bail and does not have a trial date.
Prosecutors say the men are responsible for gunning down Young Dolph.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in the daytime ambush of Young Dolph, who was buying cookies at a Memphis bakery when he was gunned down in November 2021.