Court for Prince George's County Case No. CT072537X
Nazarian, Arthur, Friedman, JJ.
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.
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.
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
noted a timely appeal and now presents two questions for
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
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.
and Procedural Background
The First Trial and the Related Post-Conviction
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 defense. On March 13, 2014, the court
vacated Wallace-Bey's convictions and granted her a new
The State's Case Against Wallace-Bey
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.
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.
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.
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
State established that at about 5:15 p.m. on October 24,
2007, police officers 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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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 "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 be no hope in sight for [their]
condition, " that she "couldn't see a way out,
" and that she "couldn't take it anymore."
was admitted to Doctors Community Hospital at around 6:00
p.m. on October 24, 2007. To treat the reported overdose,
doctors administered activated charcoal. Soon thereafter,
Detective Michael Lanier, the lead investigator, interviewed
Wallace-Bey at the hospital. She signed a Miranda
waiver form at 7:40 p.m.
Lanier testified with the aid of his notes from the
interview. According to the detective, Wallace-Bey stated
that she had traveled from Pennsylvania to spend three days
with Whaley in Maryland. On the previous night, they had gone
to bed unclothed and set an alarm to wake up at 6:30 a.m.
Before the alarm went off, Whaley woke her up and tried to
have sex with her. She remarked to Whaley that that he was
"swimming in pussy, " meaning that there were other
women with whom he could have sex. Whaley responded by
grabbing her hair, pulling her to his side of the bed, and
forcing her to have sex. According to Detective Lanier,
Wallace-Bey said that, once Whaley fell asleep again, she
retrieved her gun from her duffel bag and shot him.
Detective Lanier's request, Wallace-Bey provided a
handwritten statement, which she completed at 8:55 p.m. She
After spending three blessed days together, things went awry.
As we layed [sic] in Bed side-by-side, Amensa decided to have
sex. I did not want to do it. Amensa grabbed me by the hair
and began to assault me. He knew that it was excruciatingly
painful, but he didn't care. With my right and left hands
I tried to push him away. He said, "We're not having
that! You need to learn to take the dick." He then
constrained me and began to violently pound me. When he
finished I was in such pain that I couldn't move. I
rolled off of the bed, crawled to my bag, removed the pistol
and shot him. . . .
that night, Wallace-Bey was transferred to Prince
George's Hospital for a sexual assault forensic
examination. At trial, the forensic nurse testified that she
examined Wallace-Bey at around 3:00 a.m. on October 25, 2007.
Wallace-Bey disclosed to the nurse that she had had two
previous pregnancies, which ended in one miscarriage and one
abortion. She also disclosed that her most recent consensual
sexual contact occurred two days before the reported sexual
assault by Whaley. The nurse transcribed Wallace-Bey's
description of the assault and shooting, which we quote
The attack happen on 10/24/07 early morning hours at Amensa
Whaley (assailant) house. We were both asleep in bed or at
least I thought he was asleep. He wanted to make love. I said
no. He asked again and I said something that I should not
have, I said that he was drowning in pussy. My hair was in a
ponytail. He grabbed me by my ponytail and dragged me toward
the left side of the bed and I fell off of the bed. He
dragged me around the room by my hair. There was no one else
in the house. When he dragged me around the bed, he pulled me
back on the bed by my hair. He grabbed both my ankles and put
my legs over my head. Then he enter me, pounding me really,
really hard. I started screaming really loud, hoping that the
neighbors would hear. I used both of my hands to push him so
that he would stop from going inside me. I was pushing in his
groin area. At that point he told me that I needed to learn
how to take the dick. Somehow, after that I manage to roll
off the bed and crawl across the floor where my bag was. That
is where I had a gun. I shot him one time. Then he pushed me
out of the bedroom into the hallway. As he was pushing me he
said what are you doing, and then he collapsed to the floor.
. . .
forensic nurse observed no external injuries, but found
"left and right side abrasions" inside the vaginal
cavity, which Wallace-Bey said were "painful to the
touch." The nurse testified that it was
"possible" for a person to sustain those kinds of
abrasions during sexual intercourse. During
cross-examination, defense counsel established that the nurse
had observed "similar" abrasions during other
forensic examinations. Vaginal and cervical swabs collected
during the examination tested positive for semen but negative
days after the shooting, Detective Lanier visited the house
in Philadelphia where Wallace-Bey had been living with her
mother. He later returned, with a search warrant, to take
photographs and to collect items that Wallace-Bey's
mother had showed him. The items included a small adhesive
note that Wallace-Bey had left for her mother before she
traveled to visit Whaley on October 21, 2007; the note said,
"I am at Amensa's" and provided Whaley's
address and cell phone number. The items also included a
large envelope with the words "Tania's Last Will and
Testament" written on it. The envelope contained the
last four pages of a five-page, typewritten document, which
included Wallace-Bey's requests for her memorial service
and instructions for disposing of her property. As mentioned
in the document, Wallace-Bey left a set of gift bags in the
basement with labels for specific people.
October 23, 2007, the day before the shooting, Wallace-Bey
had mailed items to her mother's address from a post
office in Hyattsville, Maryland. She sent a small envelope
containing her birth certificate and bank deposit slips.
Separately, she sent a package containing various personal
effects (her purse, shoes, jewelry, and an iPod). Inside the
box, Wallace-Bey also placed the first page of the five-page
document expressing her last wishes. Wallace-Bey asked her
friends and family to "forgive [her] choice to leave
this earthly place." She wrote: "There have been
some things that I have struggled with for a while and I just
want to surrender it all now."
The State's Motions in Limine
the defense called its first witness, the State made two
motions in limine, which the court ultimately granted.
first motion, the State asked the court to "exclude any
testimony as to any prior abuse by anybody other than the
victim, " Whaley. Defense counsel argued that the evidence
of past abuse would help the jury to evaluate
Wallace-Bey's overall mental state and to assess her
perception of a threat "through her eyes and in light of
her experiences." The State argued that evidence of
abuse of Wallace-Bey by anyone other than Whaley was
irrelevant and inadmissible under the battered spouse
syndrome statute: Md. Code (1974, 2013 Repl. Vol.), §
10-916 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article
second motion, the State asked the court to exclude, "as
hearsay, " "any statements that [the] defendant
would say that the victim in this matter said to her."
The prosecutor did not specify the content of any of the
"statements." Defense counsel responded that the
defense would offer "any statements" made by Whaley
to Wallace-Bey not "for the truth of the statements but
for the statements['] effect on Ms. Wallace-Bey."
Specifically, defense counsel asserted that the testimony
would be offered "to show how those statements affected
her mental state and her decision-making process[.]"
prosecutor insisted that testimony about anything Whaley said
to Wallace-Bey was "clearly hearsay." At the same
time, the prosecutor admitted that Whaley's words were
"being offered by the defendant to show that in her mind
she was the victim and was a battered cohabitant[.]" In
a contradictory fashion, however, the prosecutor then claimed
that Whaley's words were "not being offered for the
effect on Tania Wallace- Bey." The prosecutor concluded
by saying: "They are being offered to show that he was
saying these things to her. They are being offered for the
truth to - to show for the truth of the matter asserted
announcing its rationale, the court granted both motions.
Defense counsel reiterated the objection for the record. At
the court's direction, the clerk made a docket entry
stating that the court granted the State's motion in
limine to exclude "any Testimony to any Prior Abuse
Other than the Alleged Abuse of the Victim" and the
State's motion "that any Statements of [the] Victim
Testimony by Wallace-Bey
the defense case, Wallace-Bey testified about two main
topics: abuse that she suffered during her relationship with
Whaley, and the events of October 24, 2007. In compliance
with the court's ruling, defense counsel did not inquire
about abuse by anyone other than Whaley.
testified that she first met Whaley in 1993, and within a
year they began a romantic relationship. Whaley, who was
studying to be a priest with the Ausar Auset Society, a
Pan-African religious organization, rented a house in
Philadelphia. Wallace-Bey moved in with him and joined the
society. Wallace-Bey testified that, as a female member, she
was expected to be "submissive" and "very
receptive to the guidance and directions and the leadership
of males in [their] family, or in [their] relationship."
She testified that she ended the relationship after a few
years because of what she called "[p]sychological abuse,
emotional abuse and even spiritual abuse." She explained
that, through Whaley's use of a "meditation and an
oracle system, " he dictated "what [she] could do[,
] [n]ot just in the relationship but in [her] life as a
whole[, ]" including what she could wear, what she could
eat, and what friendships she could have.
1997, after their initial relationship ended, both
Wallace-Bey and Whaley married other people. Wallace-Bey was
divorced in 2002. Whaley remained married, but separated from
his wife after a few years.
reconnected with Wallace-Bey in 2005. Over time, they resumed
a romantic relationship. Whaley had changed his religious
affiliation and had become a practitioner in the Yoruba
tradition. He and Wallace-Bey sought premarital counseling
from a Babalowo, whom Wallace-Bey described as a high priest
in that tradition. Wallace-Bey decided to move in with Whaley
because she believed that she needed to "[o]bey the
counsel" that she received from the Babalowo.
Valentine's Day of 2006, which was also Wallace-Bey's
birthday, Whaley surprised her by renting an apartment for
the two of them in Greenbelt. Wallace-Bey testified, however,
that within a month Whaley assaulted her for the first time.
She said that she had approached him to speak about something
that she had found on a computer in the apartment. He reacted
by grabbing her, holding her down so that she could not move,
and forcibly penetrating her.
testified that a second instance of abuse occurred at a hotel
when Whaley dragged her along the floor to the bed and
sexually assaulted her.
to Wallace-Bey, the next incident occurred at their apartment
in Greenbelt. Whaley blamed Wallace-Bey after he missed a
flight. He shut her out of the bedroom, and she slept on the
living room floor. In the middle of the night, he woke her up
by kicking her in the side and back. He demanded that she
take him back to the airport, and she obeyed. Afterwards, she
changed the locks to the apartment and moved Whaley's
belongings into his van. Thinking that he was "going to
kill" her when he returned, she fled the apartment and
went to stay with her mother in Philadelphia.
testified that Whaley eventually persuaded her to return to
Greenbelt. A few days after her return, however, Whaley
brought another woman to the apartment and had sex with her
in the master bedroom, with the door open, while Wallace-Bey
was in another room. Because Wallace-Bey needed clothes from
the bedroom, she did not leave the apartment. After Whaley
sent the other woman away, he returned to confront
Wallace-Bey. He put her "in a headlock, " dragged
her down to the floor, and threatened to harm her if she
another point in 2006, Wallace-Bey went to the apartment to
retrieve an item that she kept there. She changed her clothes
in the apartment. While her shirt was over her head, Whaley
grabbed it from behind so that her arms were immobilized. He
tried to penetrate her, but she managed to escape before he
was entirely successful. She then drove to what she thought
was a secluded area and tried to commit suicide by stuffing
items into the tailpipe of her car. A passerby interrupted
her, and she drove away.
staying at a friend's house for a period of time,
Wallace-Bey started a new job as part of a music ensemble in
the fall of 2006. She went on tour for a month, which led to
another job touring with another company. While she was on
tour, Whaley sent her many text messages and voicemails. By
conveying a message that he had received from the Babalowo,
Whaley convinced her to meet him. They had dinner together in
Delaware, reconciled, and had consensual sex at a hotel.
who was 41 years old at the time, soon discovered that she
was pregnant with Whaley's child. She informed Whaley of
the pregnancy in February 2007 and returned with him to the
Greenbelt apartment. On her first night back, after some
guests left the apartment, Whaley immediately took her into a
portable sauna to have sex. He did not physically force
himself on her at that time, but she described her
involvement as passive, saying that she "kind of just
later, Wallace-Bey began to experience cramping and severe
bleeding. She went to a hospital and learned that she was
having a miscarriage. She returned to the apartment, wearing
padding under her clothes to absorb the blood. While she was
lying face down on the couch, Whaley began to "smash
the padding." He removed her clothes and penetrated her
from behind. Later that night, Whaley "stopped [her] in
the living room, picked [her] up, put [her] against the wall
and sexually assaulted [her]" again. When she took a
shower to clean herself up, "the remains came out."
April 2007, Wallace-Bey and Whaley were trying to reconcile
with one another. Wallace-Bey testified that she purchased a
gun at that time after Whaley suggested that she carry one
for her protection while she was on tour. She said that she
kept the gun in a box at the bottom of her travel bag and
took it with her whenever she was on the road.
became pregnant again by Whaley, but decided to terminate the
pregnancy. In August 2007, she induced a miscarriage by
undergoing an acupuncture treatment that is unsafe for
pregnant women. She did not tell Whaley about her abortion,
which made her feel "[g]uilty, " "[a]shamed,
" and "[d]eceptive" towards
the same time, Wallace-Bey decided to commit suicide. She did
not want to use the gun and contemplated drinking poison
instead. She sold her car, donated many of her belongings,
and visited some old friends. She updated a document that she
had written a few years earlier to express her last wishes.
She also prepared gift bags to leave behind for some of her
loved ones. Wallace-Bey testified that she did not want her
mother to find her body.
October 21, 2007, Wallace-Bey went by train from Philadelphia
to visit Whaley, bringing her travel bag with her. She left a
note with Whaley's phone number so that her mother
"would be able to call [him] and find out what
happened" to her. On October 23, 2007, she gathered her
remaining possessions from the apartment and mailed them,
along with her suicide note, from a post office to her
mother's house. She selected the shipping method so that
the package would arrive on October 26, 2007.
testified that early in the morning of October 24, 2007,
Whaley woke her up by "yanking" and
"tugging" her. Wallace-Bey recalled that she
"kind of kicked him a little bit to the side." She
remarked to him that he was "swimming in pussy" and
that he did not need to have sex with her. She testified that
Whaley responded by grabbing her by the hair and pulling down
her underwear. She said that, while she tried to push him
away, Whaley grabbed her ankles and arms and held them
together over her head. Then he "forcefully
testified that, after Whaley had finished raping her, she
"curled up in a ball" for a few minutes. He
"tried to curl up behind [her] like spooning, but more
like a tighter curl." She pushed back against him with
her elbow and then rolled off the bed. She said that she
threw some light objects towards him, and then she saw that
her travel bag was open. She reached inside it, grabbed her
gun, closed her eyes, and fired one shot. She said that she
felt Whaley push against her arm as she was firing and that
she heard him cry out, "[W]hat you doing?"
asked why she shot him, Wallace-Bey said that she "had
to stop him" because she "knew he was going to do
it again." She said that she "knew what to expect[,
]" because "[i]t had gone on previous times."
She said that just before closing her eyes she saw Whaley
leaning back and stroking his penis in order to obtain an
erection, as she had seen him do other times. She said that
she "knew that he could do it repeatedly like he did
when [she] was miscarrying[.]"
said that she lay down on the floor with Whaley as he died.
She pulled the hammer back on the gun to shoot herself, but
put it down. She stayed with him for a long time, praying
over his body. Then, she left to buy sleeping pills and
alcohol, ingested them, and fell asleep. She could not
remember exactly when she wrote the note addressed to her
family and to Whaley's family. Eventually, she woke up
and called 911.
The Restrictions on Wallace-Bey's
Wallace-Bey's testimony about the abuse allegedly
perpetrated by Whaley, the court sustained objections and
granted motions to strike whenever Wallace-Bey testified
about things that Whaley allegedly said to her during their
first such ruling, Wallace-Bey was describing her first
meeting with Whaley. She started to say, "he told me
that . . .[, ]" but the prosecutor objected and the
court sustained the objection before she finished the
sentence. A moment later, the court reminded the jurors to
disregard any stricken testimony.
light of the court's rulings, defense counsel began to
narrow the scope of questions whenever the response might
involve words spoken by Whaley. For instance, defense counsel
asked Wallace-Bey to describe the controlling behavior that
Whaley exhibited during the early phase of their relationship
"without telling" the people in the courtroom
"about anything that [Whaley] may have said" to
counsel asked Wallace-Bey to describe the first rape, which
occurred after she confronted Whaley about something she
found on his computer, without mentioning anything Whaley
said. She answered: "He gripped me up. Gosh. He sexually
assaulted me. He said something while he was doing it."
court sustained the State's objection when Wallace-Bey
began to speak about text messages and emails that Whaley
sent, expressing his desire for her to come home after she
fled the apartment. Defense counsel instructed her to
describe her understanding of what he communicated to her
without mentioning what he actually said.
counsel asked Wallace-Bey to describe, without mentioning
anything that Whaley said, the incident where Whaley
physically assaulted her after having sex with another woman
in their apartment. Moments later, Wallace-Bey started to
testify: "He put me in a headlock and slowly took me
down to the floor. When we got down to the floor he said . .
. ." At that point, the State's attorney made
another objection, and Wallace-Bey promptly apologized before
the court ruled on the objection.
court struck portions of Wallace-Bey's testimony about
the incident in February 2007, on the first night that she
returned to the Greenbelt apartment while she was pregnant.
She testified that, immediately after their guests left,
Whaley ordered her to "get naked." She also
testified that Whaley held her and told her "you are not
leaving" in order to keep her in the house that night.
The court granted motions to strike her testimony about both
of those utterances.
court sustained another objection during Wallace-Bey's
testimony about being raped on the morning of the shooting.
She testified that, after Whaley pulled her hair and removed
her underwear, "[h]e said 'you need to learn to take
the dick.'" The prosecutor objected and moved to
strike the testimony. Defense counsel pointed out that the
State had already put the same words into evidence during its
case-in-chief. Nevertheless, the court sustained the
the direct examination of Wallace-Bey, defense counsel moved
for a mistrial. Counsel contended that the court's
restrictions on Wallace-Bey's testimony impaired her
constitutional right to present evidence in her defense.
Counsel argued that the exclusion of anything that Whaley had
said to Wallace-Bey prevented her from presenting evidence of
psychological abuse that was relevant to the issue of
battered spouse syndrome. Thus, according to defense counsel,
the jury would "not be able to adequately evaluate"
whether and how the abuse actually occurred. Defense counsel
also argued that the court should have ...