Young Dolph Murder Suspects Given a Week to Hire Lawyers

The suspects, Cornelius Smith and Justin Johnson, previously declined public defenders. A judge ordered them to hire a legal team or he would fine one for them.

Rapper Young Dolph backstage during day 1 of 2021 ONE Musicfest

Image via Getty/Prince Williams/Wireimage

Rapper Young Dolph backstage during day 1 of 2021 ONE Musicfest

The men accused of murdering Young Dolph have been given one week to find legal representation.

According to FOX13 Memphis, Judge Lee Coffee ordered Cornelius Smith, 32, and Justin Johnson, 23, to hire attorneys by 9 a.m. Feb. 4, or they’ll be assigned a public defender. The murder suspects declined court-appointed counsel during their initial hearing earlier this month, insisting they were in the process of finding lawyers for the case.

“If you have a lawyer hired, that’s fine, but as I told you 10 days ago, I cannot allow you to sit in jail week after week, month after month, without a lawyer,” Coffee told the men in court Friday. “If you don’t have a lawyer hired on Feb. 4, I’m going to hire a private attorney to represent both of you all.”

Both Johnson and Smith claimed their families were working on finding attorneys, and expressed confidence they would have representation by the Feb. 4 deadline.

Young Dolph accused killers Justin Johnson and Cornelius Smith requested the judge give them one more week to allow their families to finalize arrangements on hiring lawyers to represent them. Judge Coffee set Next Friday as the HARD deadline or they will be appointed public def

— Jeremy Pierre FOX13 (@JeremypierreFOX) January 28, 2022

Smith was extradited from a Mississippi jail, where he was being held on a theft charge since December 9, 2021.

Earlier this month, the two men were indicted on first-degree murder and other criminal charges in connection to the fatal shooting of Dolph—legal name Adolph Robert Thornton Jr. The 36-year-old rapper was gunned down on Nov. 17, 2021, while inside Makeda’s Cookie Shop in Memphis, Tennessee. The attack was captured in surveillance footage that was released by police; the video shows two masked gunmen at the scene of the shooting before fleeing in a vehicle.

Several weeks ago, Smith was extradited to Tennessee from a Mississippi jail, where he was being held on a theft charge. Johnson was arrested Jan. 11 in Indiana along with Shundale Barnett, a 26-year-old who was in a vehicle with the suspect at the time of his arrest. Barnnet was ultimately hit with several charges, including accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.

Both Johnson and Smith are being held without bond.

The arrests took place just days before Dolph’s imprint, Paper Route Empire, released a compilation project in his honor. The record, titled Paper Route Empire Presents: Long Live Dolph, included appearances Key Glock, Big Moochie, Kenny Muney, Jay Fizzle, Joddy Badass, and Chitana.

“Every artist on the label–Key Glock, Jay Fizzle, Moochie Grape, Kenny Muney, Joddy Badass, ChiTana, Big Unc, Snupe Bandz, and Paper Route Woo–were all hand-picked, because beyond talent, [Dolph] saw in them the same hunger and determination he saw in himself,” PRE CEO Daddyo said in a statement ahead of the project’s release. “He spent time cultivating them as artists, and mentored them until they discovered their own greatness. Each one is more than ready to fulfill their destiny. And they have the support of this entire Empire behind them.”

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