The deep reverence that Memphis has for Young Dolph has been called into question by the defense team for one of the suspects accused of having a role in the artist’s November 2021 death.
Justin Johnson has been 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. His attorney, Luke Evans, argued on Friday (Feb. 2) that the high-profile case has been densely played out in the media to the point that he doubts his client can be fairly judged by a jury of his peers, especially not in Shelby County.
“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,’” wrote Evans in a motion requesting the trial be moved elsewhere or that jurors from another county be selected.
He also addressed claims of Johnson being the subject of death threats and suggestions that he be lynched as another cause for concern about the trial playing out fairly. “I think the further away we go, the less likely those social media outlets [and] these stories are going to be coming up… Someone that is so beloved in this community, it really puts potential jurors in an unfair position,” he said. WREG reports that the judge is expected to make a ruling on the motion by next Friday (Feb. 9).
In November, Dolph’s fiancée, Mia Jaye, spoke out in support of the suspects being punished to the fullest extent of the law. Along with Johnson, Cornelius Smith, Jemarcus Johnson and Hernandez Govan are each facing multiple charges in connection to the rapper’s death. “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,” Jaye wrote on Instagram.
At this time, the trial for Johnson and Smith, who are being tried at the same time, is expected to begin in June.