Judge Rules NBA Star Ja Morant Acted In Self Defense In Case Against Teen

Ja Morant Nike Billboard

A Tennessee judge has ruled that NBA star Ja Morant acted in self-defense when he punched a teenager in July 2022 during a pickup basketball game at Morant's home.

The ruling comes after a civil immunity hearing in December where Morant testified that he punched Joshua Holloway, then 17, to protect himself during an altercation.

Judge Rules That Ja Morant Was Acting In Self-Defense When He Punched Joshua Holloway

Ja Morant
YouTube | WREG News Channel 3

On Monday, a judge ruled that the Memphis Grizzlies star acted in self-defense when he punched Holloway during a basketball game at Morant's family home in Tennessee.

According to a court filing obtained by ESPN, Shelby County Court Judge Carol Chumney ruled that Morant, 24, "enjoys a presumption of civil immunity" under Tennessee's self-defense immunity statute. The burden of proof now shifts to Holloway and his legal team to prove that the NBA star didn't act in self-defense.

The July 2022 altercation happened during a pickup basketball game at Morant's house when Holloway was accused of throwing a one-handed pass at Morant during a check ball situation. The ball hit Morant in the face just before Holloway allegedly took a step toward him, which had Morant acting in self-defense by punching Holloway.

Morant's friend, Davonte Pack, also punched Holloway and was later arrested for misdemeanor assault. The charge against Pack was dismissed.

A trial was set to begin in late April but is expected to be moved to a later date.

After Days Of Testimony In December, The Judge Postponed Her Ruling

Ja Morant
YouTube | WREG News Channel 3

After three days of arguments and testimony, Chumney decided she needed more time to make her decision if Morant could claim immunity from being sued by Holloway.

Chumney explained that because there's a lot of testimony and evidence to go over, she needed more time to make her decision, adding that the lack of precedent makes it "much more important to do substantial work" before making a decision.

"Everybody was hoping for a big decision, or finality, or something like that. These are important legal issues, and I just want to say this to everybody in the courtroom," Chumney said in December.

"This is a statute and this is a law that does not have a lot of what you call precedent in Tennessee, in terms of prior decisions where appellate courts have weighed in and said, 'In this case, you do this. And in this case, you do that.' Because of that, even though there are some decisions from around the country, a lot of the briefing takes more time with the attorneys."

Chumney's ruling would decide whether the burden will be swapped from Morant's legal team to Holloway's legal team.

And now that Chumney has ruled that Morant acted in self-defense, it's up to Holloway's team to prove that the Grizzlies star didn't act in self-defense.

Ja Morant's Lawyers Claimed Self-Defense Immunity Under 'Stand Your Ground' Laws

Ja Morant
YouTube | ABC24 Memphis

The lawsuit filed by Holloway accuses Morant of assaulting him at his home in July 2022. Holloway was invited to play at the private basketball court and had been invited to the house several times before this incident occurred. During the trial, Morant testified that Holloway showed his family respect and behaved well in the past.

During cross-examination, Holloway's attorney asked Morant if the basketball was a weapon, to which Morant replied, "Yes."

Morant testified that during the altercation, he asked Holloway, "What you on?" and Holloway didn't reply but instead pulled up his shorts, which Morant took as a "fighting stance." Morant said Holloway took a step toward him so he took a step forward and punched Holloway.

"I hit him first - to protect myself," Morant said.

Ja Morant Was Suspended For 25 Games

Ja Morant
YouTube | The Rich Eisen Show

Last year was a tough year for the Grizzlies star who spent much of 2023 suspended for gun-related incidents. After a 25-game suspension, Morant returned to the court in December.

During a press conference before his first game back, Morant spoke to the press about his time on suspension.

"It's been a process. Obviously, thankful for, you know, the support I had during this time. Obviously, it's not easy, you know, not being out there on the floor and having to watch, but you know with everything else, being around the team, being able to practice, being able to travel, the guys just constantly talking to me and vice versa, it's been good," he said.

"I've pretty much just been focusing on me, honestly, outside of the basketball stuff. But basketball-wise, just becoming more of a leader with my talk."

An Injury Ended Ja Morant's Season Early

Ja Morant
YouTube | NBA on ESPN

Morant's time on the court was short-lived after returning from his suspension due to an injury. He could only play nine games before shoulder soreness stopped him from playing. And then surgery became necessary, ending his season abruptly.

An announcement from the Grizzlies in early January shared the bad news.

"At Saturday’s training session, Morant suffered a subluxation of his right shoulder. Following ongoing soreness and instability, Morant underwent an MRI that revealed an underlying labral tear. Morant will undergo season-ending surgery and is expected to make a full recovery ahead of the 2024-2025 season,” the announcement reads.

Just a few days later, Morant underwent successful surgery to repair a labral tear in his right shoulder. The NBA star shared an update shortly after surgery in an Instagram Story.

"What you went thru has a purpose. So does your life. Focus on your life's purpose and you will get thru this trying time," he wrote on his Story which included a photo of him in the hospital.