BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Baltimore jury has found the man accused of killing 16-year-old honor student Phylicia Barnes guilty of second degree murder.
Derek Valcourt reports the verdict came down around 11:30 a.m. and family members of Phylicia Barnes are hugging in the courtroom hallway.
Tuesday marked Michael Johnson’s 29th birthday. He was hoping the jury gave him the gift of his freedom.
The Barnes family waited patiently, hoping for a guilty verdict. They got their wish.
The jury was challenged to consider whether all of the evidence points to Michael Johnson as the man who killed 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes in December 2010 and then dumped her body in the Susquehanna River, where it was found four months later.
At the heart of the case: does the jury believe petty criminal James McCray, who testified Johnson showed him Barnes’ dead body and asked for help getting rid of it. He says Johnson confessed to raping his ex-girlfriend’s sister and then choked her when she wouldn’t stop crying.
Prosecutors say McCray got nothing in exchange for his testimony and has no reason to lie.
Defense attorneys called him a professional snitch who had some inaccuracies in his testimony. They point out the rest of the state’s case is built on circumstantial evidence.
Late Tuesday, the jury asked to watch two of the videos they’d already seen in evidence: a Wal-Mart security video that shows Johnson purchasing the same kind of storage container that prosecutors allege he used to get rid of Barnes’ body and a cell phone video that showed Johnson, his younger brother, Barnes and her older sister all intoxicated, naked and engaged in sex acts.