BALTIMORE, March 21 (UPI) -- A judge who accused prosecutors of withholding information has thrown out the conviction of a Maryland man for the murder of a teenage girl.
Michael Maurice Johnson, 29, had been scheduled for sentencing after being convicted last month of second-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes in 2010 while she was visiting Baltimore from North Carolina, The Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday.
Instead, Circuit Judge Alfred Nance threw out the conviction, charging prosecutors withheld from Johnson's attorneys information about a key witness.
Nance said prosecutors should have disclosed that James McCray, who said he saw Barnes' body while helping Johnson dispose of it, had been jailed in Baltimore County for a time.
Prosecutors had claimed McCray was not aware of the Johnson trial because he had been in jail in Charles County and didn't have access to media reports.
"This court notes that while defendant is not guaranteed a perfect trial, he is guaranteed a fair trial, and these violations amount to a failure to meet that standard," the judge said.
While expressing disappointment in the ruling, prosecutors said they planned to retry the case.
Johnson's attorneys said the ruling would help them present a better rebuttal of the state's case.
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