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Jury selection begins in Phylicia Barnes' murder case

Phylicia Simone Barnes
Phylicia Simone Barnes (Baltimore Sun)

Jury selection will continue Thursday in the second trial of the man accused of strangling 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes in 2010.

Michael Maurice Johnson, 30, has returned to court for a second trial. A jury found him guilty of second-degree murder in February 2013, but the verdict was overturned after a judge ruled that prosecutors withheld information about a key witness in the case.

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Barnes disappeared in 2010 when she came to Baltimore from North Carolina to visit family. She was staying with her sister, who once dated Johnson, when she went missing. Her body was later found floating in the Susquehanna River, and Johnson was indicted on murder charges more than a year later.

After Johnson's conviction, Circuit Judge Alfred Nance overturned the jury's decision due to testimony by James McCray, who told investigators he saw Barnes' body after Johnson asked him for help in disposing it, which was crucial testimony because it linked Johnson to the murder scene.

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Johnson's defense questioned McCray's credibility but prosecutors said McCray did not have access to media accounts of the Barnes trial because he was incarcerated in Charles County. Johnson's lawyers, however, later determined McCray had at one point been held in Baltimore County. Nance said the defense should have disclosed that information to the defense.

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