CRIME

Michael Johnson gets new trial in Phylicia Barnes slaying

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BALTIMORE (AP) - Defense attorneys have won a new trial for a Baltimore man convicted in the high-profile slaying of a North Carolina teenager.

The motion was granted at a sentencing hearing Wednesday for Michael Johnson, who faced up to 30 years in prison. Johnson was convicted last month of second-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes, an honor student who disappeared while visiting relatives in Baltimore in December 2010. Her body was found four months later in the Susquehanna River.

Johnson's lawyers said prosecutors improperly tried to bolster the credibility of a witness who testified that Johnson asked him for help disposing of Barnes' body.

Telephone calls by The Associated Press seeking comment from the Baltimore State's Attorney's office and Johnson's attorney were not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

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