The trial lasted 12 days, his defense rested after calling a single witness, and the trial of Michael Maurice Johnson is now in the hands of 12 citizens of Baltimore who are now asked to decide whether he killed Phylicia Simone Barnes in her half-sibling’s northwest Baltimore apartment as the state has alleged. The high profile case took a strange turn on Friday as the presiding judge, Alfred Nance dismissed the jury for the day, and responded to a defense motion for acquittal because they believed the state’ case was so weak that there was no need to proceed further. Nance agreed with the defense and lectured the state on what he called “proceeding on a theory”. Though the judge cited aspect of the case that he said was “troubling”, he fell short of dismissing the charges against Johnson, and said the state does have the right to present it’s theory to a jury. In a trial that began with a shocking sex tape which was played before jurors while some of them covered their mouths with their hands in shock, and the tearful testimony of the slain teens’ older sister after having to finally admit she failed Phylicia in open court , the state only produced minimal evidence that was all for the most part highly circumstantial. Followers of the case are now worried because prosecutors had submitted 17,000 pieces of discovery evidence in the case. The state did produce two witnesses who alleged to have seen Johnson struggling while carrying a tote in the hallway of the building the teen was staying. That evidence was attacked by the defense after noting that the witness testified to allegedly encountering Johnson some time during the morning of the day Barnes disappeared, which was in contrast to the state’ belief that Barnes was killed sometime in the afternoon. The testimony of James McCray ( a.k.a. James Lee) is potentially the strongest evidence the state has produced against Johnson. Lee testified claiming Johnson called him to the apartment on December 28, 2010 seeking help disposing of Barnes’ body after he had killed her. Lee told jurors that Johnson stated the child was giving him mixed signals where their relationship was going, he forced himself on her, and he couldn’t stop the child from crying so he strangled her to death. Lee went on to testify that he declined assisting Johnson in disposing of the pretty little girl’s body, warned Johnson about being tracked via GPS from his cellphone, and told Johnson not to bury the body because DNA would still be detectable but he should throw her in a body of water in some kind of container. The defense may have gained some momentum in tarnishing Lee’s credibility because he alleged that the encounter with Johnson occurred before Christmas of 2010. Barnes disappeared on December 28 of that year. Lee also struggled recalling the location of Deena Barnes’ apartment where he alleges he saw the Barnes teen’ body wrapped in sheets. Lee said the apartment was located on the second floor but the defense highlighted his inconsistency by reminding the court that the apartment was on the basement level. Despite the state’ shortcomings there is very compelling circumstantial evidence against Johnson. Johnson was the last person to see Barnes alive and had called out sick from work that day, but Johnson told police that he was actually moving his personal belongings out of the apartment as requested by Deena Barnes following their recent breakup. Testimony from police investigators point out that Johnson purchased a large plastic tub from a local Wal-Mart that day, which is the exact same type of tub witnesses alleged to have seen him struggling to carry in the hallway. Investigators testified that Johnson’s cellphone was tracked to an area near the Patapsco Valley State Park in Howard County on the day Barnes disappeared. Police acting on a tip, conducted an extensive search of the park for the teen’s remains early on during the investigation. The state also challenged Johnson’s older brother regarding surfing the internet for information about GPS data for cellphones the day after Barnes disappeared. The state alleges that the query searched to determine if a cellphone’s GPS data could be tracked when the phone is off, but judge Nance would only allow limited questioning on the matter because the state couldn’t tie Johnson to the computer search. However, the state also produced evidence which captured Johnson discussing in text, and while talking on the phone contemplating fleeing the country to avoid prosecution for murder charges. The state produced text messages of Johnson telling his child’s mother that he felt like things were closing in on him and he should pack his things and just leave, but told her that she and their child would have to stay behind. The text is extremely damaging to his defense while depicting his desire to flee, and even leaving his own child behind. Many believe that evidence alone points to guilt on his part simply because an innocent man wouldn’t have a reason to want to leave the country to avoid prosecution. Johnson was also captured speaking about leaving the country on the phone with his older brother, and discussing how much time would have to be served for a 1st degree murder charge verses a 2nd degree murder charge. It’s believed that the defense fell short rationalizing Johnson’s plans to flee the country by only offering the explanation that he was encountering stress of having to provided for his child, a responsibility he wasn’t prepared for. The state also called a woman named Nakita McCray to the stand. The woman was reported one of the last people Barnes had communicated with. No details have emerged if she was in fact related to James McCray who reported was shown Barnes’ body they day she disappeared, why Barnes contacted her, or the extent of their relationship. Followers of the case believe the last text from the Barnes teen’ phone, and communications on the internet she reportedly made around noon could actually have been made by Johnson himself in an attempt to conceal the child’s actual time of death. There is still more evidence that the state has against Johnson, but case law and other factors pertaining to a defendants rights prohibited the state from getting it in during the trial’s summation. Tweets from Johnson’s brothers not only establish that at least one of them (Glenton Johnson) may actually have been with him around the time he alleges he last saw the teen alive, but that they in fact may have also been concerned about the police that day as well. Glenton’s tweet to a Johnson cousin reveals that Michael Johnson was with Glenton smoking pot shortly before Barnes was last seen, and a tweet by Glenton just 2 minutes before Johnson say he last saw Phylicia is extremely chilling. He tweets “don’t tell her twice, whoop her ass”. Unfortunately, in many of these tweets Johnson is only referenced by a nickname he acquired from an X-Box Game Tag (Ease), and can’t be entered into court because Johnson isn’t directly tied to the tweets. Additionally, the connection between relatives to the defendant who are police officers hasn’t been thoroughly investigated to determine if their was any involvement on their part. TPC has always pointed out the fact that there appears to be a well orchestrated cover up related to how the case was investigated from the start. The 6 day delay in Barnes’ disappearance having been declared an actual missing person case derived from reports that she went to get food, and might be returning shortly, bought time for people involved in this crime to cover their tracks. Mean while. people around the child while she was in Baltimore continued to tell lies about what exactly may have happened leading up to her disappearance, including the child’s own sister. In a atmosphere of drugs, alcohol, and nudity the life of a beautiful promising child was simply snuffed out without provocation. Now we have reached the eleventh hour hoping, wishing, and praying that a Baltimore jury can find the missing pieces to explain how, why, and who’s responsible for the untimely demise of this precious child. The jury is now doing their work to conclude this tragic murder case, and on behalf of TPC, I thank you for supporting all of the efforts made to find Phylicia’s killer(s). May God lead this jury.
The People’s Champion
I’m David Adams