Man suspected in Phylicia Barnes' death could be retried

Man suspected in Phylicia Barnes' death could be retried
Michael Johnson (Source: WBTV/File)
Michael Johnson (Source: WBTV/File)

BALTIMORE (WBTV) - The man suspected in the death of 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes could now be back in court after an appeals court reversed his previous acquittal in her death.

Michael Johnson was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013 and was facing his second trial in the case when a judge has dismissed all charges against him in January 2015.

Barnes, who is from Monroe, was staying with her half-sister, Deena Barnes, in Baltimore when she disappeared in December 2010. Her body was found four months later in the Susquehanna River, which near Baltimore.

Johnson is Deena's ex-boyfriend and investigators say he was the last known person to see the honors student alive.

Johnson's trials

In February 2013, a Baltimore jury found Johnson guilty of second-degree murder in Phylicia's death. That decision was later appealed.

More than a year later, in December 2014, a judge declared a mistrial for the second time.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the judge declared the mistrial because prosecutors played a wiretap conversation which was supposed to be withheld. The judge believed the mistake was not intentional but said it tainted the jury.

The Sun reported in January 2015 that Johnson's attorneys accused prosecutors of intentionally tanking the second trial in the case in December.

Wednesday, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the January 2015 decision, remanding the case.

According to the State's Attorney for Baltimore City, the appeals decision results in a mistrial for the 2015 trial - giving the State Attorney's Office the ability to retry the case.

"The pursuit of justice for victims of crime in Baltimore City is never easy, but a battle we will always wage in our fight to do what's right." State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said Wednesday. "This case has and always will be about securing justice for this 16-year-old girl and we are elated that the Court of Special Appeals decision will allow us to do so."

Phylicia's family speaks

Phylicia's family says they are "elated" to learn that Johnson will be brought back to trial in her death and says "this time we're going to make sure he gets everything he deserves."

"This is a day I've been waiting for, I'm just so happy," her father Russell Barnes said over the phone. "I want to thank everyone who has supported us."

He says Phylicia was a vulnerable 16-year-old and Johnson took her life.

Russell Barnes said he wants everyone to remember Phylicia's bright spirit.

"She was an honor roll student - she was excelling so hard and ahead of life that she was graduating one year," Russell Barnes said. "Her life was cut down so short by a predator."

Barnes thanked State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby for standing with Phylicia's family in their journey for justice.

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