The recent death of a young woman caused a ripple, not just here in Maryland, but across the country as well. The teenager, who lived in North Carolina, visited family in Maryland four years ago only to inexplicably disappear. Her body was found several months after in a Cecil County, Maryland, river. Her killer was convicted of second-degree murder charges and was incarcerated. However, further developments in the case showed that insufficient evidence to convict him and now he is free.
The presiding judge indicated that the case against the man was unquestionably circumstantial. He added that while state prosecutors presented intriguing issues pointing to the accused as the person behind the disappearance and eventual death of the teenager, no direct evidence suggested the man was involved. The man had a loose family connection to the victim and this was the second time a mistrial was declared; the first was last December.
The man's mother called the verdict overdue. Meanwhile, the man's legal counsel thanked the court for what they believed was the right decision. While the events and the trial have been heart-wrenching for both families, the man's lawyers stated that he was always innocent and he and his family have endured a terrible ordeal. On the other hand, the state's attorney questioned the court's jurisdiction in ordering an acquittal of the case and indicated that there was a plan to file an appeal.
Maryland residents facing murder charges or similar violent crime accusations should bear in mind that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. Despite this fact, people facing serious murder charges should have a strategic and sound criminal defense which presents evidence that proves innocence. At the same time, the criminal defense should also carefully scrutinize evidence presented by the prosecution and any questionable witness accounts.
Source: WBAL, "Charges dismissed against Michael Johnson," Barry Sims, Jan. 20, 2015