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2 suspects charged in rapper Young Dolph’s murder arraigned in court

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 3:54 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Two months after the death of Memphis rapper Young Dolph, two men are in custody for his murder.

Justin Johnson, 23, and 32-year-old Cornelius Smith appeared before Judge Lee Coffee Wednesday morning.

The judge said prosecutors could seek the death penalty if they’re convicted of their charges. Life sentences could also be on the table.

Johnson and Smith are facing charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder, being felons in possession of a firearm, using a firearm during a dangerous felony, and theft of more than $10,000.

They’re charged with killing Young Dolph at Makeda’s Cookies on Airways Boulevard Nov. 17. The rapper’s brother was also there at the time.

Neither Johnson nor Smith have hired attorneys to defend them but said they could afford to.

Both men remain in jail without bond. Chief Prosecutor Paul Hagerman spoke to the evidence in the case and how investigators connected Johnson and Smith to Dolph’s shooting.

“We wouldn’t be here without strong evidence against them. We’re confident and you all saw the video from Nov. 17 when the two people shot and murdered Dolph. We got the two people in court today,” Hagerman said.

Hagerman said the case is in the very beginning stages, but he hopes it will bring closure to Memphis.

“I know who the victim was, familiar with him, know what he meant to Memphis and what he symbolizes with regards to, you know, being a self-made person and the grit and grind in Memphis. And we need to get some justice in this case,” Hagerman said.

Hagerman said he’s been having conversations with Young Dolph’s family. Some of them were in court for the hearing.

“They are very interested in the prosecution of this case. His mother’s actually sick today, so she is not here, but some other family members are here and I look forward to meeting with all of them pretty soon,” Hagerman said.

Coffee said Johnson and Smith have until their next hearing Friday, Jan. 28 to hire an attorney or they’ll be assigned public defenders.

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