The Baltimore Circuit Court case of Michael Johnson vs. The State of Maryland began continued with a jury of twelve having been seated in what many say will be one of the most closely watched criminal trials for the city in recent memory. Judge Nance dismissed the jurors early this morning to hear motions from lawyers in the case. The hearing was filled with drama as the defense filed a motion to question the lead investigator in the Barnes murder case during trial, while also requesting that the judge dismiss the prosecution’s case entirely for “the appearance of impropriety” because the state has deliberately held off on charging Police Detective Daniel T. Nicholson IV, who was suspended by the department on April 23, 2012, after two people told police that he forced his way into their apartment while searching for his own 15-year-old daughter, who had run away from home. The defense has previously claimed that false charges against their client were pursued only two days after Nicholson was suspended by the department for alleged misconduct. Prosecutors brought one count of first-degree murder against Michael Maurice Johnson, 28, who had long been considered a suspect when news broke that Nicholson was in fact the lead investigator in the Barnes teen murder case. Nicholson has not been charged but the case is open and he remains suspended. Defense attorney Ivan J. Bates wants to question Nicholson about his honesty related to departmental charges against him. Bates has previously claimed Nicholson has a pattern of violating departmental rules during criminal investigations he has been involved in. When Johnson was arrested early last year, Bates also claimed a Baltimore police officer related to the slain teen showed up when the child was reported missing, and began questioning people who were at Deena Barnes apartment where Phylicia Barnes was staying. The defense’ motions appear to be tactics to sensationalize the trial by creating the appearance of misconduct by police which may sway jurors set to hear the case. Baltimore has a history of juries who render questionable verdicts in criminal cases when the slightest implication of any impropriety what so ever by police, solely predicated on a widespread anti-police sentiment throughout Baltimore City. Judge Nance ruled in the defense’ favor allowing Nicholson to be questioned during the trial, but set limits to what the defense may ask the detective, and ruling that the questions must be submitted prior to direct questioning of the officer on the stand. The questioning of Nicholson appears to be a strong part of the defense’ case who obviously plan to demonstrate the state’s case was built on false charges against Johnson. However, the defense will also have to overcome other culpable evidence against their client. Witnesses are reportedly prepared to testify to observing Johnson struggling with carrying a 35 gallon container in the hallway of the apartment building Barnes was staying in, on the day, and around the time Johnson told police he last saw the teen alive. Prosecutors want to demonstrate in court that a person of Barnes’ size could fit in a container of that volume. The judge has denied their request to have a person get inside a 35 gallon container during trial, but has indicated he may hear further discussion on the issue further along in the trial. Johnson was seen purchasing a 35 gallon container at a local Walmart on the day Barnes disappeared, The defense argued that the container has never been found, and the witnesses accounts contrast on the actual size of the container. The conflict in witnesses account on the container size is simply a matter of semantics as the pair only disputes the actual size, but both place Johnson in the hallway of the day in questioning struggling with a container. The defense also will have to explain why their client may have been attempting to flee the country. Prosecutors have Johnson overheard on telephone conversations stating “what if I move to another country like Brazil where they can’t expedite me to face murder charges”. Much of the potential culpable evidence the state plans to introduce during the trial against Johnson is very circumstantial, but other tangible evidence against him may be extremely damaging to his defense. The sex tape prosecutors have stated they will show during the trial shows Johnson actually having sex with the teen. The tape on it’s face alone is sufficient to charge Johnson with statutory rape because Barnes was a minor, but prosecutors believe that Johnson had a thing for the pretty honors student, and he may have killed her to prohibit Barnes from revealing sexual relations he had with her. Prosecutors publicly revealed that Barnes, Johnson and his younger brother, along with Deena Barnes were depicted in the recording intoxicated, and engaging in sexual relations. The Barnes teen may have been without her full bearing during the sex tape incident and it has not been established whether she appears to be a willing participant. The defense claims the sex tape will aid their client’s case because it refutes claims that Barnes had previously told her older sister Shauntel Sallis that Johnson made her feel uncomfortable. Despite these dramatic elements of the case, it appears the defense is trying to tarnish Barnes image, and the integrity of the lead investigator in the case. Whether their strategy will free Michael Johnson remains to be seen when a Baltimore jury hears the case. Moreover, it’s clear that Deena Barnes is ultimately responsible for what happen to young Phylicia Barnes who was left in her care while visiting her father’s side of the family over the Christmas Holiday back in 2010. Deena has attempted to place full blame on Michael Johnson for her younger half-sibling’s killing, while continuously lying in the media regarding the extent of what was actually going on at her northwest Baltimore apartment. Deena’s actions primarily after her sister disappeared has angered the public. The sex tape was disturbing alone, but once reports were made public that Deena was depicted having sex also, her credibility was destroyed, and many supporters turned against her because she knew all along what cops had discovered from video on her cellphone. Deena Barnes testimony during the trial of her kid sister’s murder will probably prove to be the most dramatic aspect of this entire senseless ordeal. The public also awaits if she will face any criminal charges as well. We continue to pray for justice for Phylicia and the entire Mustafa family.
The People’s Champion
I’m David Adams