Wallace-Bey v. State, No. 476 Sept. Term 2016

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtArthur, J.
Citation172 A.3d 1006,234 Md.App. 501
Docket NumberNo. 476 Sept. Term 2016
Decision Date02 November 2017
Parties Tania Renee WALLACE–BEY v. STATE of Maryland

234 Md.App. 501
172 A.3d 1006

Tania Renee WALLACE–BEY
v.
STATE of Maryland

No. 476 Sept. Term 2016

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

November 2, 2017


Submitted by: Michael T. Torres (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief) Baltimore, MD, for Appellant

Submitted by: Sara P. Pritzlaff (Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General, on the brief) Baltimore, MD, for Appellee

Panel: Nazarian, Arthur, Friedman, JJ.

Arthur, J.

234 Md.App. 510

In 2009 a Prince George's County jury convicted Tania Wallace–Bey of first-degree premeditated murder and the use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence in the shooting death of her boyfriend. The Circuit Court for Prince George's County sentenced her to imprisonment for life plus 20 years.

234 Md.App. 511

Five years later, the circuit court granted post-conviction relief, on the ground that Wallace–Bey had received ineffective assistance of counsel because her defense lawyer had failed to investigate whether she was suffering from battered spouse syndrome at the time of the shooting.

At a second trial in 2016, Wallace–Bey was convicted again of first-degree premeditated murder and the use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. The court again sentenced her to life imprisonment for the murder conviction and to a consecutive term of 20 years for the handgun conviction.

Wallace–Bey noted a timely appeal and now presents two questions for review:

1. Did the circuit court impermissibly limit the testimony of [Wallace–Bey] and the defense expert?

2. Did the circuit court err in permitting the State to question [Wallace–Bey] about the credibility of another witness?

The answer to both questions is: Yes. First and foremost, we conclude that the circuit court committed prejudicial error by requiring Wallace–Bey to present the evidence that the victim repeatedly abused her without mentioning any words that he actually said to her. The judgments must be reversed on that basis alone. We shall address the other evidentiary issues to provide guidance for another trial.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. The First Trial and the Related Post–Conviction Proceedings

At around 5:15 p.m. on October 24, 2007, Tania Wallace–Bey called 911. She reported that her boyfriend, Julius Whaley, had raped her and that she had shot him.

Police officers found Whaley's body on the floor of a bedroom inside his apartment. He had died hours earlier from a single gunshot to the chest.

234 Md.App. 512

Wallace–Bey told paramedics that she had tried to kill herself by ingesting sleeping pills and alcohol. The paramedics took her by ambulance to a hospital for treatment.

172 A.3d 1012

Detective Michael Lanier of the Greenbelt Police Department obtained oral and written statements from Wallace–Bey at the hospital. Later that night, Wallace–Bey gave another statement when she underwent a sexual assault forensic examination. In her statements, Wallace–Bey said that Whaley had raped her early that morning, that afterwards she shot him once, and that later she tried to commit suicide.

Upon visiting the residence in Philadelphia where Wallace–Bey had been living with her mother before the shooting, Detective Lanier discovered that Wallace–Bey had already been preparing to commit suicide in the days before she killed Whaley.

In December 2007, a Prince George's County grand jury indicted Wallace–Bey for first-degree premeditated murder of Whaley and the use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. Although Wallace–Bey told her private defense counsel that Whaley had repeatedly abused her during the months leading up to the shooting, her counsel did not seek out an evaluation for battered spouse syndrome. Instead, counsel relied on a theory of self-defense, without calling any witnesses. The jury found Wallace–Bey guilty on both counts, and the court sentenced her to life imprisonment plus 20 years.

After this Court affirmed the convictions on direct appeal, Wallace–Bey petitioned for post-conviction relief on several grounds, including ineffective assistance of counsel. At a post-conviction hearing, Dr. Patricia McGraw expressed her expert opinion that Wallace–Bey was suffering from battered spouse syndrome at the time that she shot Whaley.

The post-conviction court found that Wallace–Bey's trial counsel had rendered ineffective assistance by failing to investigate battered spouse syndrome. The court also found that counsel's inadequate performance prejudiced Wallace–Bey's

234 Md.App. 513

defense. On March 13, 2014, the court vacated Wallace–Bey's convictions and granted her a new trial.

B. The State's Case Against Wallace–Bey

The circuit court held a jury trial over six days from March 14, 2016, to March 22, 2016. The trial focused on the events leading up to the shooting and Wallace–Bey's mental state during it. There was no dispute that Wallace–Bey caused Whaley's death by shooting him.

The State theorized that Wallace–Bey had killed Whaley as the first part of a murder-suicide plan. It contended that Wallace–Bey came to visit Whaley with the intention of killing him along with herself, that she shot him while he was asleep, and that her subsequent suicide attempt failed.

The defense claimed that Wallace–Bey shot Whaley to defend herself just after he had forcibly raped her. The defense claimed further that she was suffering from the effects of repeated abuse by Whaley.

Throughout defense counsel's opening statement, the prosecutor made dozens of objections, many of which the court sustained. It appears that the court sustained objections to comments about anything that Whaley said to Wallace–Bey during their relationship, but overruled objections to comments about what Whaley did to her. For instance, the court sustained an objection to a comment that Whaley demeaned Wallace–Bey by telling her that she was "sick" and "destined for stagnation and failure," but overruled an objection to a comment that Whaley once "kicked her while she was on the ground."

The State established that at about 5:15 p.m. on October 24, 2007, police officers

172 A.3d 1013

and paramedics responded to a 911 call, in which Wallace–Bey reported that her boyfriend had raped her and that she had shot him. When they arrived at the apartment building, Wallace–Bey came outside and "collapsed" onto the ground. The paramedic who treated her saw no signs of injury.

234 Md.App. 514

Upstairs, police officers found Whaley's body lying face-down in a pool of blood. He had sustained a single gunshot wound on the right side of his chest. The medical examiner determined that the gun's muzzle had been directly against his skin when it was fired. The bullet pierced the blood vessels connecting his right lung to his heart, which caused him to die within minutes.

On the bottom row of a bookshelf next to the body, investigators found a five-shot revolver. The hammer was pulled back by hand, ready to fire. The revolver had one spent cartridge in its cylinder and four unspent rounds. Three more unspent rounds of ammunition were found on the floor on the other side of the mattress. Records showed that Wallace–Bey had purchased the revolver from a Pennsylvania dealer in April 2007, about six months before the shooting.

Investigators found an empty pill container on the floor near the body. Surveillance photos and purchase records showed that Wallace–Bey purchased sleeping pills from a nearby drug store at 8:30 a.m. on the morning of the shooting.

Outside the building, an officer recovered a grain alcohol bottle and a bag filled with personal items belonging to Wallace–Bey: her clothes, wallet, cosmetics, and toiletries. A manila folder inside the bag had phone numbers written on it for Wallace–Bey's parents and for the parents of "Amensa" (a name used by Whaley).

Also inside the bag was a pad of paper with bloody fingerprints on the front page. Tests later showed that the blood came from Whaley. Wallace–Bey had written a message on it, addressed to "Families (Amensa's and Tania's)." In the message, Wallace–Bey wrote that she was sorry "for hurting" them and asked for their forgiveness. She wrote that, "[o]ver the past year," her relationship with Whaley "became very unhealthy." In her words, "Amensa, ordinarily a man of good intentions and love, began to abuse [her,]" and she, "ordinarily a woman of substance and self-respect, began to accept the abuse willingly and frequently." She wrote that she made "numerous attempts to end the relationship," but that they

234 Md.App. 515

"managed to find [themselves] in each other's arms—only to begin a new cycle of sickness [and] injury more grotesque than the previous." She said that there "appeared to...

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37 practice notes
  • Sewell v. State, No. 2183, Sept. Term, 2016
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • November 29, 2018
    ...its decision to exclude the evidence was not an exercise of discretion but an error as a matter of law. Id. ; cf. Wallace-Bey v. State , 234 Md. App. 501, 542-43, 172 A.3d 1006 (2017) (reversing, as an error of law, a trial court's limitations 197 A.3d 637on a defense-expert's testimony tha......
  • Devincentz v. State, No. 74, Sept. Term, 2017
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • August 13, 2018
    ...v. State , 364 Md. 692, 703, 775 A.2d 385 (2001) ; Howard v. State , 324 Md. 505, 517, 597 A.2d 964 (1991) ; Wallace-Bey v. State , 234 Md. App. 501, 546, 172 A.3d 1006 (2017). The proper inquiry in applying the harmless error test is not to consider the sufficiency of the State's evidence,......
  • State v. Elzey, No. 3, Sept. Term, 2020
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • January 29, 2021
    ...change that the defense was planning to suggest was the language with regard to abuse by the victim. Because of Wallace-Bey v. State , [234 Md. App. 501, 172 A.3d 1006 (2017),] ... we offered ... two suggested ... instructions, one of which would indicate ["]by the victim and others,[&......
  • Frazelle-Foster v. Foster, No. 2716, Sept. Term, 2018
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 31, 2021
    ...defendant to a new trial when it refused to allow her to present evidence of the actual words spoken to her by her deceased boyfriend. 234 Md. App. 501, 563, 172 A.3d 1006 (2017). In that case, Wallace-Bey was a victim of physical, psychological, and emotional abuse perpetrated by her boyfr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • Sewell v. State, No. 2183, Sept. Term, 2016
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • November 29, 2018
    ...its decision to exclude the evidence was not an exercise of discretion but an error as a matter of law. Id. ; cf. Wallace-Bey v. State , 234 Md. App. 501, 542-43, 172 A.3d 1006 (2017) (reversing, as an error of law, a trial court's limitations 197 A.3d 637on a defense-expert's testimony tha......
  • Devincentz v. State, No. 74, Sept. Term, 2017
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • August 13, 2018
    ...v. State , 364 Md. 692, 703, 775 A.2d 385 (2001) ; Howard v. State , 324 Md. 505, 517, 597 A.2d 964 (1991) ; Wallace-Bey v. State , 234 Md. App. 501, 546, 172 A.3d 1006 (2017). The proper inquiry in applying the harmless error test is not to consider the sufficiency of the State's evidence,......
  • State v. Elzey, No. 3, Sept. Term, 2020
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • January 29, 2021
    ...change that the defense was planning to suggest was the language with regard to abuse by the victim. Because of Wallace-Bey v. State , [234 Md. App. 501, 172 A.3d 1006 (2017),] ... we offered ... two suggested ... instructions, one of which would indicate ["]by the victim and others,[&......
  • Frazelle-Foster v. Foster, No. 2716, Sept. Term, 2018
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 31, 2021
    ...defendant to a new trial when it refused to allow her to present evidence of the actual words spoken to her by her deceased boyfriend. 234 Md. App. 501, 563, 172 A.3d 1006 (2017). In that case, Wallace-Bey was a victim of physical, psychological, and emotional abuse perpetrated by her boyfr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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