Case of Phylicia Barnes detective heads to trial

Prosecutors said Friday they intend to explore the tempestuous relationship between the lead detective in the Phylicia Barnes case and his daughter when his trial on assault and burglary charges begins next week.

The detective, Daniel T. Nicholson IV, is accused of barging into a Northeast Baltimore apartment, knocking a woman to the ground and punching another as he frantically searched for his daughter.

His actions were previously scrutinized at the trial of Michael Maurice Johnson, who was indicted in Barnes' death, when defense attorneys sought to cast doubt on Nicholson's credibility by pointing to the parallels between Nicholson's own hunt and the search for Barnes.

Nicholson's search for his daughter was going on just days before prosecutors indicted Johnson in Barnes' killing. The North Carolina teen had gone missing while on a Christmastime visit to Baltimore in 2010, and her body was eventually found in the Susquehanna River the following April.

Prosecutors said at a motions hearing Friday that they expect the jury in the detective's case to hear further details of the relationship between Nicholson and his daughter.

Two women who were in the apartment will testify that Nicholson's daughter told them she was being abused and was afraid to go home, so they sought to protect her, prosecutors said.

The two women, who lived at the apartment in the 5500 block of Bowleys Lane, testified briefly Friday about how they picked Nicholson out of a photo array at a police station but did not describe the details of the alleged incident.

Baltimore County police charged Nicholson in 2011 with an attack on his daughter. The charges were ultimately dropped after the family agreed to attend counseling, and the judge handling his current trial ruled that the jury could not hear details of the older case.

The trial is scheduled to continue Monday with jury selection.

Johnson's defense lawyers accused the state's attorney's office of delaying bringing charges against Nicholson until their client's case had concluded. But ultimately, Johnson was given a new trial after new evidence surfaced about a key prosecution witness, so both cases are now active at once.

The defense raised the allegations against Nicholson at Johnson's trial. Ivan Bates, who represented Johnson, said if the detective is convicted prosecutors might not want to call him as a witness in the retrial.

Bates is no longer representing Johnson, who now has a lawyer from the public defender's office. His new attorney could not be reached for comment.

Johnson has a Feb. 21 trial date.

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