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A Flower In The River: Justice Not Certain In Upcoming Retrial Of Phylicia Barnes Murder Case

A Continuing Series On The Murder Case Of Phylicia Barnes

 

With just under a week away before the scheduled 2nd murder trial of Michael Maurice Johnson begins, who is accused of killing the promising honors student Phylicia Barnes, it’s sad that nearly three years later the pretty book smart kid’s story has failed to clear Baltimore City’s Circuit Court docket, and give her grieving family closure in one of the city’s most gripping and tragic stories. Johnson was actually convicted of 2nd degree murder in the child’s killing, but discovery law violations by the city state attorney’s office forced Circuit Court Judge Alfred Nance to throw out the verdict, while citing civil rights violations in the case.

During the first trial, Johnson was also acquitted of 1st degree murder, the most severe charge he faced, and the state can’t charge him a second time on that count. It’s a very disturbing realization considering the fact that the state’s failure to convict Johnson on that charge will almost certainly guarantee that Michael Johnson will walk the streets of Baltimore City again one day. It’s not even a lock that Johnson will be convicted a second time for killing the Barnes teen. The state gambled on a petty criminal name James McCray during the first trial, with his testimony placing Michael Johnson at the dead teen’s sister apartment in which he testified that he saw the girl deceased, and wrapped in a bed sheet.

It was a very compelling piece of testimony because McCray had not only put Johnson at the scene, but also stated that he advised Johnson to strip the child of her clothing, and advised him to dispose of her body in water to aid in the concealment of potential forensic evidence. Cops had found Barnes’ body during the spring of 2011 after thawing waters caused her nude body to surface in the Conowingo Dam in Northern Maryland where the child had apparently been placed after her killing. McCray’s testimony seemed to tie it all together, after all authorities had found Barnes dead, stripped of her clothing, and placed in a body of water just as McCray had testified to. Only the problem with McCray’s testimony is that he was a known criminal, which carries the burden of credibility issues for obvious reasons, and Johnson’s defense counsel were successful in doing damage to his testimony during cross examination.

Lawyers for Johnson picked away at his account by asking if he recalled when his allege encounter with Johnson and the child’s dead body had actually occurred, and McCray testified that Johnson had called him to the apartment prior to Christmas. The statement cast serious doubt on the accuracy and credibility of McCray’s testimony because the Barnes teen had gone missing on December 28, 2010 three days after the Christmas Holiday. However, jurors who were interviewed after Johnson had been convicted during the first trial, say they didn’t give McCray’s testimony too much weight, but rather believed that Johnson was guilty based on recorded jail house telephone conversations in which he discussed leaving the country to avoid prosecution.

In fact, jurors also told news outlets that Johnson never once proclaimed his innocence during those jail house phone recordings, and believed that he was guilty, had something to hide, and was trying to run from justice.  However, despite the problems a witness like McCray posed for the state, which was emphasized during inconsistent testimony during the trial, the jury still believed that Johnson had killed the child and came back with a conviction of 2nd degree murder.  The state had won it’s case, but Montgomery County State prosecutors had submitted documentation detailing that McCray had been scrapped as a witness for an unrelated murder case which McCray had testified during Johnson’s trial that he had in fact testified during that case.

The revelation completely decimated the state’s star witness’ testimony proving that McCray had as a matter of fact lied on the stand during Johnson’s first trial. Trouble for the state began when the state attorney’s office failed to inform Johnson’s attorneys that the documents existed as required by law. The state actually waited 13 days after they had received the documents impeaching McCray’s testimony.  Upon discovery of the Montgomery County documentation Johnson was almost certain to be guaranteed a new trial, but the states failure to be forthright with the discovery violated Johnson’s Civil Rights, and also cast a tremendous cloud over the entire prosecution of Michael Johnson. It almost gives the impression that the state was trying to railroad him in a case many believe they could have easily one, had the state utilized other compelling evidence that points to not only the involvement of Michael Johnson, but other members of his family in the killing of pretty young Phylicia Barnes.

Now with the testimony of the state’s star witness James McCray having been destroyed, many followers of this story wonder what direction the state will take it’s case to prove that Michael Johnson killed the Barnes teen. Judge Nance scolded the state during the first trial, citing that he believed the state’s case was “based on a theory”, and fell short of tossing the case entirely before sending the case to the jury. McCray’s testimony of having been summoned to the apartment where he observed Michael Johnson with the child’s dead body, is the only tangible evidence the state produced during the initial trial. Now that the state doesn’t have his testimony, it’s case has become even more circumstantial and may be a tough sell to a Baltimore jury historically known for it’s controversial rulings, and a complete mistrust of the Maryland judicial system as a cultural fact.

Although Johnson has remained locked up at the Baltimore City Detention Center pending the start of his second trial, many of his family members suspected by the public at the very least of conspiring to cover up the Barnes teen murder continue to walk freely in the streets of Baltimore. Though it’s widely believe that Johnson killed the child, many remain outraged that Phylicia’s half sibling Deena Barnes has eluded prosecution in this tragic case. The older Barnes lied to the child’s mother about who would be staying at her northwest Baltimore apartment while Phylicia came to visit. Her deception toward the child’s mother is what ultimately allowed Janice Mustafa to allow her beautiful daughter to start traveling to Baltimore to develop a relationship with her half siblings. Phylicia who was described by her parents as a fun loving, silly, naive, and book smart country girl was no match for the fast paced gritty street culture of Baltimore city that took her young life.

A toxic combination of drugs, alcohol, a freaky sex laced environment  with adult males, and coupled with lies and deceit developed into a horrible crime in which no one has yet been held accountable. Phylicia’s family tells TPC that they are prepared for any verdict in the upcoming second murder trial, but the story of Phylicia Barnes is textbook on how murderers escape the criminal justice system in Baltimore, and avoid paying the ultimate price for heinous crimes of this nature. Phylicia was a pretty flower thrown in a river, gone from us forever, but not forgotten.

 

To be Continued …

 

 

The People’s Champion

I’m David Adams

 

David Adams

Self proclaimed geek, Advocate for the homeless, Social Change, Crime Blogger, and mobile technology enthusiast. A recognized Journalist and Human Interest Writer championing the plight of the masses whom are without a voice of their own.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
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A Continuing Series On The Murder Case Of Phylicia Barnes

 

With just under a week away before the scheduled 2nd murder trial of Michael Maurice Johnson begins, who is accused of killing the promising honors student Phylicia Barnes, it’s sad that nearly three years later the pretty book smart kid’s story has failed to clear Baltimore City’s Circuit Court docket, and give her grieving family closure in one of the city’s most gripping and tragic stories. Johnson was actually convicted of 2nd degree murder in the child’s killing, but discovery law violations by the city state attorney’s office forced Circuit Court Judge Alfred Nance to throw out the verdict, while citing civil rights violations in the case.

During the first trial, Johnson was also acquitted of 1st degree murder, the most severe charge he faced, and the state can’t charge him a second time on that count. It’s a very disturbing realization considering the fact that the state’s failure to convict Johnson on that charge will almost certainly guarantee that Michael Johnson will walk the streets of Baltimore City again one day. It’s not even a lock that Johnson will be convicted a second time for killing the Barnes teen. The state gambled on a petty criminal name James McCray during the first trial, with his testimony placing Michael Johnson at the dead teen’s sister apartment in which he testified that he saw the girl deceased, and wrapped in a bed sheet.

It was a very compelling piece of testimony because McCray had not only put Johnson at the scene, but also stated that he advised Johnson to strip the child of her clothing, and advised him to dispose of her body in water to aid in the concealment of potential forensic evidence. Cops had found Barnes’ body during the spring of 2011 after thawing waters caused her nude body to surface in the Conowingo Dam in Northern Maryland where the child had apparently been placed after her killing. McCray’s testimony seemed to tie it all together, after all authorities had found Barnes dead, stripped of her clothing, and placed in a body of water just as McCray had testified to. Only the problem with McCray’s testimony is that he was a known criminal, which carries the burden of credibility issues for obvious reasons, and Johnson’s defense counsel were successful in doing damage to his testimony during cross examination.

Lawyers for Johnson picked away at his account by asking if he recalled when his allege encounter with Johnson and the child’s dead body had actually occurred, and McCray testified that Johnson had called him to the apartment prior to Christmas. The statement cast serious doubt on the accuracy and credibility of McCray’s testimony because the Barnes teen had gone missing on December 28, 2010 three days after the Christmas Holiday. However, jurors who were interviewed after Johnson had been convicted during the first trial, say they didn’t give McCray’s testimony too much weight, but rather believed that Johnson was guilty based on recorded jail house telephone conversations in which he discussed leaving the country to avoid prosecution.

In fact, jurors also told news outlets that Johnson never once proclaimed his innocence during those jail house phone recordings, and believed that he was guilty, had something to hide, and was trying to run from justice.  However, despite the problems a witness like McCray posed for the state, which was emphasized during inconsistent testimony during the trial, the jury still believed that Johnson had killed the child and came back with a conviction of 2nd degree murder.  The state had won it’s case, but Montgomery County State prosecutors had submitted documentation detailing that McCray had been scrapped as a witness for an unrelated murder case which McCray had testified during Johnson’s trial that he had in fact testified during that case.

The revelation completely decimated the state’s star witness’ testimony proving that McCray had as a matter of fact lied on the stand during Johnson’s first trial. Trouble for the state began when the state attorney’s office failed to inform Johnson’s attorneys that the documents existed as required by law. The state actually waited 13 days after they had received the documents impeaching McCray’s testimony.  Upon discovery of the Montgomery County documentation Johnson was almost certain to be guaranteed a new trial, but the states failure to be forthright with the discovery violated Johnson’s Civil Rights, and also cast a tremendous cloud over the entire prosecution of Michael Johnson. It almost gives the impression that the state was trying to railroad him in a case many believe they could have easily one, had the state utilized other compelling evidence that points to not only the involvement of Michael Johnson, but other members of his family in the killing of pretty young Phylicia Barnes.

Now with the testimony of the state’s star witness James McCray having been destroyed, many followers of this story wonder what direction the state will take it’s case to prove that Michael Johnson killed the Barnes teen. Judge Nance scolded the state during the first trial, citing that he believed the state’s case was “based on a theory”, and fell short of tossing the case entirely before sending the case to the jury. McCray’s testimony of having been summoned to the apartment where he observed Michael Johnson with the child’s dead body, is the only tangible evidence the state produced during the initial trial. Now that the state doesn’t have his testimony, it’s case has become even more circumstantial and may be a tough sell to a Baltimore jury historically known for it’s controversial rulings, and a complete mistrust of the Maryland judicial system as a cultural fact.

Although Johnson has remained locked up at the Baltimore City Detention Center pending the start of his second trial, many of his family members suspected by the public at the very least of conspiring to cover up the Barnes teen murder continue to walk freely in the streets of Baltimore. Though it’s widely believe that Johnson killed the child, many remain outraged that Phylicia’s half sibling Deena Barnes has eluded prosecution in this tragic case. The older Barnes lied to the child’s mother about who would be staying at her northwest Baltimore apartment while Phylicia came to visit. Her deception toward the child’s mother is what ultimately allowed Janice Mustafa to allow her beautiful daughter to start traveling to Baltimore to develop a relationship with her half siblings. Phylicia who was described by her parents as a fun loving, silly, naive, and book smart country girl was no match for the fast paced gritty street culture of Baltimore city that took her young life.

A toxic combination of drugs, alcohol, a freaky sex laced environment  with adult males, and coupled with lies and deceit developed into a horrible crime in which no one has yet been held accountable. Phylicia’s family tells TPC that they are prepared for any verdict in the upcoming second murder trial, but the story of Phylicia Barnes is textbook on how murderers escape the criminal justice system in Baltimore, and avoid paying the ultimate price for heinous crimes of this nature. Phylicia was a pretty flower thrown in a river, gone from us forever, but not forgotten.

 

To be Continued …

 

 

The People’s Champion

I’m David Adams

 

David Adams

Self proclaimed geek, Advocate for the homeless, Social Change, Crime Blogger, and mobile technology enthusiast. A recognized Journalist and Human Interest Writer championing the plight of the masses whom are without a voice of their own.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle Plus

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