Lawyer asks judge to remove himself from Young Dolph case

Posted at 4:54 PM, January 20, 2023 and last updated 9:39 AM, June 12, 2023

By ADRIAN SAINZ Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The defense attorney for a man charged with fatally shooting rapper Young Dolph said Friday he has asked a judge to remove himself from the case based on claims that the judge is not being impartial.

FILE – Young Dolph performs at The Parking Lot Concert in Atlanta on Aug. 23, 2020. A man charged with soliciting the killing of Young Dolph pleaded not guilty Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, one year after the rapper and producer was shot to death while buying cookies at a bakery in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn. (Photo by Paul R. Giunta/Invision/AP, File)

Luke Evans, the lawyer for Justin Johnson, said he was not informed about an order issued in November by Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee limiting Johnson’s ability to communicate with people outside the jail other than Evans.

Coffee said during a court hearing Friday that he issued the order after Johnson was alleged to have made a recording heard outside the jail where Johnson is being held. Media outlets reported that the recording was a rap song made by Johnson and distributed on social media.

Coffee’s order restricts his visitation privileges and does not allow Johnson to communicate by phone or in writing with anyone outside the jail but his lawyer, including family. Evans said the recording in question was made on the jail’s phone, but he questioned whether Johnson actually made the recording.

This image released by the U.S. Marshals Service shows Justin Johnson. An arrest warrant has been issued for Johnson, 23, in connection with the the Nov. 17, 2021, fatal shooting of rapper Young Dolph, who was gunned down in a daylight ambush at a popular cookie shop in his hometown of Memphis, authorities said Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. (U.S. Marshals Service via AP)

Evans said Johnson was not given a court hearing to address the issue and the order is punitive.

“The paramount concern for Mr. Johnson is that he receives a fair trial in front of an impartial judge,” Evans told reporters after the hearing. “Our legal system is built on transparency, it’s built on process.”

Coffee said he issued the order for Johnson’s safety and he denied the accusations that he’s not being impartial. Coffee said he has not made any judgments about Johnson’s guilt or innocence,

The judge set a Feb. 2 hearing on the recusal motion.

Johnson has pleaded not guilty to charges including first-degree murder in the shooting of Young Dolph in November 2021 at a bakery in Memphis.