The emergence of new evidence forced a postponement in the trial of the man charged in the killing of Phylicia Simone Barnes, an honors student from Monroe, N. C.

On Aug. 13, both the prosecutor and defense attorney requested additional time to sift through 17,000 pages of additional documents added into evidence.

The new trial date for Michael Maurice Johnson, who is charged with first-degree murder, is scheduled for Jan. 21 at 9:30 a.m. Johnson maintains a plea of not guilty.

Russell A. Neverdon, defense attorney for Johnson said, “We’re still trying to put it together and figure out what direction we are coming from.”

Phylicia Barnes went missing on Dec. 28, 2010, while in Baltimore visiting her step-sister Deena Barnes, Johnson’s ex-girlfriend. After initially being recorded as a runaway by local law enforcement agents, the 16 year-old’s disappearance garnered national media attention. She was named the “Baltimore Natalie Holloway case,” a comparison to the Texas high school student who went missing in 2005 on a senior trip to Aruba.

Johnson was arrested on April 25, a year after Barnes’s body was found in the Conowingo Dam in the Susquehanna River following months of extensive searching by her father Russell Barnes, who came up from Atlanta, Ga., the Alliance of Guardian Angels; local law enforcement; family and friends.

Russell Barnes, who insisted his daughter was not a runaway, said he began suspecting Johnson after he suddenly stopped coming around the family following Barnes’ disappearance.

Relatives and authorities place Johnson at the apartment, where the girl was last seen alive. Johnson and Deena Barnes had broken up a few days before the disappearance and Johnson claims he went to the apartment to pick up his younger brother and then returned to do laundry and collect his belongings, where she was alone.

“It seems to be that there is still the old cliché, the last person to have seen the victim is responsible or involved in some way,” said Neverdon after the proceeding.

Tony Garcia, a member of Johnson’s defense team, said, “I think the client is still confident in his innocence. He’s confident that we will put on a great defense and he’s confident that he’s going to fight this every step of the way.”


Krishana Davis

AFRO Staff Writers