Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A jury has been seated in the trial of a man charged with killing honors student Phylicia Barnes. Opening statements will begin Friday.
Derek Valcourt breaks down the latest on the selection process.
Attorneys from both sides knew this wasn’t going to be an easy process. For two full days, they questioned dozens of jurors and on Thursday morning, the jury was seated.
YouTube video shows 16-year-old murder victim Phylicia Barnes hanging around with her kid sister before her ill-fated visit to her older sister’s Baltimore apartment in late 2010. That’s when prosecutors believe her sister’s ex-boyfriend–28-year-old Michael Johnson–strangled her and then disposed of her body.
After a four-month intense search that garnered national media attention, her remains were found in the Susquehanna River in Cecil County.
Prosecutors and Johnson’s defense attorneys spent hours questioning potential jurors as they try to seat a panel that can remain unbiased. Attorney Andrew Levy–who is not connected to the case–says the lawyers are all trying to get at the same basic question.
“Who is going to be more inclined to side with the prosecution and who is going to be more inclined to side with the defense?” Levy asked. “To a certain extent, as any trial lawyer will tell you, it can be like reading tea leaves. You don’t have all that much information when you’re trying to make these kinds of judgments.”
Those jurors will be asked to sit through what could be a sensational trial.
At least one witness is expected to testify he saw Johnson moving a storage container on the day Phylicia Barnes disappeared. Prosecutors hope to prove the container was big enough to hold her body.
Jurors will also hear about and may be forced to see parts of a cell phone sex video that included images of Phylicia Barnes, her older sister Deanna, defendant Michael Johnson and another male engaged in sex acts.
Defense attorneys plan to attack the credibility of the lead detective who worked this case. They also say they have a few witnesses who should cast some reasonable doubt on the defendant’s guilt or innocence.