BALTIMORE -- Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday as the trial of Michael Maurice Johnson, accused of murdering Monroe teen Phylicia Barnes, begins in a Maryland courtroom.
The weeks leading up to the trial included a surprise development, with prosecutors saying they planned to play a video allegedly showing Johnson and Barnes having sex.
Barnes, 16, a senior at Union Academy in Monroe, had gone to Baltimore for the Christmas holidays in 2010 to stay with her half-sister, Deena. She was last seen Dec. 28, when Deena Barnes left her northwest Baltimore apartment.
A search involving dozens of law enforcement agencies turned up nothing, but Barnes’ body was found in April 2011, floating in the Susquehanna River, about 50 miles north of where she had staying.
Johnson, who had dated Deena Barnes but reportedly was ending the relationship, was charged last April with the teen’s murder. Prosecutors say a neighbor of Deena Barnes reported seeing Johnson struggling to carry a 35-gallon tub out of the apartment on the day the teen disappeared.
Court papers indicate Barnes had been asphyxiated.
Prosecutors also say Johnson had sent Phylicia Barnes about 500 text messages in the months before she went to Baltimore.
The Baltimore Sun reports Johnson’s attorney says the defense has a witness who will testify he saw Phylicia Barnes alive, in another county, several days after she had been reported missing.
The case took a new twist last month, when a judge ruled in favor of a prosecution request to show a video that had been found on Deena Barnes’ cell phone. According to multiple media reports from Baltimore, the 16 1/2-minute video shows Phylicia Barnes and Johnson having sex, with others in attendance. The Baltimore Sun, attributing the comments to prosecutors, says the video shows Barnes as being “intoxicated.”
Barnes’ family now lives in the Atlanta area.