The murder case of 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes has been further delayed by a second mistrial after a Baltimore judge found that an error by the prosecutor “tainted” the case brought before the jurors.
Circuit Judge John Addison Howard granted the defense’s motion for a mistrial because prosecutors exposed the jurors to information they weren’t allowed to see.
Michael Maurice Johnson, 30, was charged with murdering Barnes in 2012. The North Carolina high school student was visiting her half sister, Deena, at her Northwest Baltimore apartment on Dec. 28, 2010. She was found dead four months later floating in the Susquehanna River.
The prosecutors believe that Johnson raped and strangled the teenager before putting her body in a container and throwing it in the river, CBS Baltimore reports.
The cause of the mistrial might’ve involved wiretapped phone conversations, according to the Baltimore Sun. The recordings overheard Johnson mentioning the case, but he never confessed to murdering Barnes.
In 2013, Johnson’s conviction was overturned by Judge Alfred Nance, who ruled that prosecutors withheld information about a questionable witness who testified in the first trial, but not the second. The lead detective on the case was also arrested and charged for going on a “rogue” hunt for his own missing daughter.
“Let’s do it all over again,” Barnes’ father, Russell Barnes, said after the second mistrial. “As long as [Johnson] stays in jail, we’ll do it all over again till we get it right.”
Barnes, who has attended both trials, traveled from Georgia each time to see his late daughter’s case get delayed even further.
Johnson has served more than two years in jail awaiting a jury decision. His father Glenton Johnson Sr., told the Sun that his family was glad that the judge caught the error by the prosecutors. He, along with the rest of Johnson’s family, believes that the prosecutors and the police are attempting “to skew the evidence toward a conviction.”
Judge Howard said he didn’t believe the error that led to the mistrial was done on purpose because of the shocked expression he saw on the prosecutors’ faces.
On Monday, some of the jurors sai they thought that the prosecutors didn’t have a string enough case.
“When I left Friday, I thought it was the defense’s game to lose,” juror Donna Goodlett told the Sun.
Juror Danielle Daughtry said she wanted to see more evidence and that her vote would have been to acquit Johnson if the case had gone to the jury on Monday. One juror wasn’t convinced there was a motive and said she didn’t understand the state’s case.