Crime & Courts

3rd trial ordered for man acquitted of killing Monroe teen Phylicia Barnes

Phylicia Barnes
Phylicia Barnes Baltimore Police

The man accused of killing Monroe teen Phylicia Barnes in Maryland will face his third trial in the case, Maryland’s top court ruled Wednesday.

The Court of Appeals of Maryland said the judge who acquitted Michael Johnson in January 2015 was wrong to have acquitted him and did so in “an act without authority.”

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Baltimore head prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, said she was pleased with the ruling and that “this unanimous decision further validates our unwavering pursuit of justice on behalf of Phylicia Barnes” and her loved ones.

Barnes, an honors student at Union Academy Charter School, was in the state around Christmas 2010 visiting her older half sister when she disappeared. Johnson, Deena Barnes’ longtime boyfriend, was the last person known to have seen her alive, authorities have said.

Booking mug made 4/27/2012 of Michael Johnson, 28, accused of murdering Monroe, N.C. teen Phylicia Barnes in 2010.

The case of her disappearance riveted the Charlotte region, as Baltimore authorities launched an extensive search for her. Barnes’ naked body was found near a Maryland dam four months after she vanished.

The judge made an error by letting this predator out of jail.

Russell Barnes, the victim’s father

Johnson was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013, but the sentencing judge ordered a mistrial because prosecutors failed to turn over certain information, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Another mistrial was declared in late 2014 after prosecutors played a recording jurors were not supposed to hear, according to The Sun.

In January 2015, as the case moved forward to another re-trial, the circuit court judge who had declared the latest mistrial ruled that prosecutors did not have sufficient evidence to try Johnson again, The Sun reported. That judge then acquitted Johnson.

At the time, Barnes’ father, Russell Barnes, said the judge “let a child killer walk on the street here,” The Sun reported.

Last June, a Maryland appeals court reinstated charges and ordered a new trial for Johnson. That order was appealed, and resulted in the high court order that was just issued.

Barnes was black, and her case also fueled a national debate on whether children of color who are missing get the same attention as whites.

When informed of the latest developments in the case, Russell Barnes told The Sun he was elated, adding, “The judge made an error by letting this predator out of jail....Let him stand trial for what he did.”

Adam Bell: 704-358-5696, @abell