Those who came to finally witness closure in the grueling murder trial of Michael Johnson for killing Honors Student Phylicia Barnes were gravely disappointed, as Judge Alfred Nance revealed in a Baltimore Circuit Court today that Johnson would receive a new trial. Johnson was scheduled to be sentenced today after having been previously convicted of second degree murder by a Baltimore Jury, but on February 22, 2013 his defense counsel filed an appeal motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence that the state failed to disclose important information regarding it’s star witness James McCray. McCray testified during the trial that Johnson had summoned him to the northwest Baltimore apartment where the Barnes teen had been staying with her sister Deena Barnes, showed him the pretty teens lifeless body, and solicited McCray’s help in disposing of her remains. During McCray’s testimony he inaccurately stated the time in which the alleged killing of Barnes had occurred. McCray testified that Johnson called him to the apartment a few days before Christmas, but Barnes actually disappeared on December 28, 2010, three days after the Christmas holiday. McCray also inaccurately stated that the apartment Johnson led him to was on the second floor of the building, and that statement was wrong also, as Deena Barnes’ was actually on the basement level. The jury apparently gave no weight to McCray’s inaccuracies and convicted Johnson anyway. When news first broke that the state suppressed evidence regarding what correctional facility McCray was housed in, a juror notified the news media and refuted Johnson’s defense claim that McCray’s credibility was problematic and his testimony had prejudiced the jury against him. The Defense argued that the state failed to accurately report which correctional facility McCray was housed in and that his testimony only offered what had already been broadcast on t.v. The defense’ claim was crucial because during the trial the state produced documentation from Charles County authorities that McCray was in custody during the Barnes murder investigation without access to the internet. However, McCray was in fact housed at the Charles County Detention Center, The Montgomery County Detention Center, and the Baltimore County Detention Center respectively, while the later two correctional facilities would have afforded McCray some form of media access. Moreover, the juror who contacted Baltimore Sun News Reporter Justin Fenton, advised that the jury’s decision to convict Michael Johnson had nothing to do with James McCray’s testimony, but rather was mostly due to the wiretap telephone conversations that Johnson made with family and friends. The juror cited that the fact Michael Johnson never once expressed his innocence in killing the Barnes teen, and only discussed how much time he would have to serve for a 1st degree murder conviction, verses a 2nd degree murder conviction, and his contemplating fleeing the country to avoid prosecution for killing Barnes all together. In Judge Nance’ decision he outlines the fact “though the defendant isn’t necessarily due a perfect trial, he his entittled to a fair one, and the trial fails to meet that standard.” Read Judge Alfred Nance’ Decision and Order below:
The state’ failure to accurately report where it’s star witness was being held during the entire Barnes murder investigation is a horrible element of this entire senseless tragedy and will further delay or void all together justice for the Mustafa family who lost their beautiful daughter to violence in the streets of Baltimore. Whether the disclosure of documents pertinent to the case were intentionally suppressed by prosecutors or other wise, Johnson for now has gained new life in his quest for freedom and being acquitted of having killed Barnes. Though Nance’ order grants Johnson a new trial, he is not exactly acquitted of his 2nd degree murder conviction, and is not being released pending his new trial. The most disturbing aspect of these revelations is that Johnson can no longer face 1st degree murder charges because he was initially acquitted of that charge, and any prosecution of a 1st degree murder charge would be deemed double jeopardy. The Judges ruling will also guarantee that even if Johnson is convicted a second time for killing Barnes, he will one day be back on the streets. A very sad commentary indeed. There will be more to come as these disturbing events in the Phylicia Barnes murder case continue to develop.
The People’s Champion
I’m David Adams