It was likely the first time in more than two years most anyone heard the voice of Phylicia Barnes, although this time, the infectious laugh of a 16 year old girl was played through the back of a TV in open court as part of illicit evidence.
Prosecutors started the morning playing the video for the jury with older sister Deena Barnes, the defendant Michael Johnson, his younger brother and Phylicia; all naked, outside of a school and all four in an act Deena Barnes called ‘joinking,’ the touching and grabbing of one another's privates.
Deena testified Phyilicia touched Michael Johnson and it is in that moment prosecutors say changed the relationship between the two.
Johnson's defense team knew the state was going to show this video and said the following in an interview we conducted last month before the gag order.
"If you can separate the mindset of there being a minor child involved, imagine your run of the mill college kids engaged in sexual activity...roommates, coed where there are four people engaged in sex in the same vicinity. What's disturbing about this, one of these people happens to be a sister, an older sister who's engaged in sexual conduct while her sister is engaged in sexual conduct," said Defense Attorney Russell Neverdon.
And that is where the defense took its line of questioning for Deena Barnes in its cross examination, trying to paint the 29 year old as irresponsible; that in Phylicia's visits, Deena allowed her to drink alcohol, smoke pot and be around parties and other activity not suitable for a 16 year old...that Deena Barnes was anything but a model guardian.
Prosecutors also laid out the timeline of the day Phylicia disappeared.
Deena Barnes testified that in the hours after the teen went missing, she noticed a large plastic tote that was gone from the apartment.
A similar one she said she gave police that night as a reference was shown to the jury.
It is the state's theory that Michael Johnson was the last person to see Phylicia alive, killed her and then transported her body in that missing tote.
Trial resumes Tuesday morning.
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