The alleged killers of renowned Memphis rapper Young Dolph made their second court appearance in Shelby County Criminal Court before Judge Lee V. Coffee on Friday morning.
Neither Cornelius Smith nor Justin Johnson had secured legal representation and Coffee set a new hearing date for Feb. 4 at 9 a.m.
During their January 18 arraignment on charges of murdering Young Dolph, whose legal name was Adolph Robert Thornton Jr., Smith and Johnson had declined a public defender and asked for more time to hire an attorney. Coffee granted the request, setting up Friday’s brief court appearance.
The two men were brought in without handcuffs but were escorted by four officers, who stood behind them.
Smith said his family was in the process of speaking with attorneys and would make a decision soon. Johnson said his family was going through the same process.
Johnson, 23, a Memphis rapper known as “Straight Drop,” and Smith, 32, were each indicted on charges related to the Nov. 17 ambush killing of Young Dolph at a cookie shop in South Memphis.
The charges are: first-degree premeditated murder, attempted first-degree murder, convicted felon in possession of a firearm, employment of a firearm in the commission of a dangerous felony, and theft of property over $10,000.
The first-degree attempted murder charge is related to Young Dolph’s brother, who was caught in the spray of gunfire but not hit. The theft of property charge is for the vehicle used in the fatal shooting. The white Mercedes had been carjacked a week prior.
Johnson, who had been on the run since Thornton’s killing, was tracked down by U.S. Marshals on Jan. 11, 2022, in Indiana. He waived extradition and was transported back to Memphis. Johnson’s passenger, Shundale Barnett, 26, is charged with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Investigators believe Barnett helped Johnson elude law enforcement.
Smith had been in custody for weeks in the DeSoto County Jail. Southaven police arrested him on Dec. 9 on a car theft warrant for the white Mercedes used in the shooting. Authorities, however, did not publicly announce that one of the suspected shooters was already in custody until Johnson’s capture. Smith was indicted and transferred to Shelby County almost immediately.
Both are being held in Shelby County jail without bond.
Coffee said that if either defendant came to court on Feb. 4 without an attorney he would appoint a private attorney to represent them.