Maryland’s second-highest court has ordered a new trial for a Baltimore man convicted of shooting his girlfriend and dumping her body in a wooded area in 2017.
It’s the latest high-profile case overturned in the wake of an appellate ruling in the case of Kazadi v. State, which found judges had wrongly prevented defense attorneys from asking certain questions of prospective jurors.
Marco Holmes, now 26, was convicted by a jury in 2018 of second-degree murder for the killing of Tonja Chadwick and sentenced to 50 years. The Court of Special Appeals ruled this week that he is entitled to a new trial.
Chadwick, 20, was reported missing in January 2017, one day after she and Holmes — who had recently moved in together — were seen arguing, according to the appellate court’s summary of the case.
A Baltimore City police officer went to Chadwick’s apartment and discovered a “wet stain on the carpet.” The following day, officers returned to the apartment and found additional stains, one of which was later determined to be Chadwick’s blood. Police obtained and executed a search warrant at Chadwick’s apartment and recovered various pieces of evidence, the judges wrote.
Several days later, her body was found by a maintenance man outside an apartment complex in West Baltimore, wrapped in blankets and buried under leaves and tree branches. She had a gunshot wound to the forehead, and her arms and hands were bruised.
Chadwick was an aspiring nurse and mother of a young son.
At trial, Holmes’ defense attorney requested to ask whether prospective jurors would be unwilling or unable to comply with the principles of the presumption of innocence and the state’s burden of proof. The trial judge, who according to court records was Circuit Judge Jeffrey Geller, denied the request.
The Kazadi ruling ordered that any other cases that are pending on direct appeal when the opinion was filed, and in which defense attorneys had also asked to question jurors, be overturned.
The appeals court previously overturned the conviction of a man sentenced to life for the 2017 killing of Alexander Wroblewski, 41, who was fatally shot outside a Royal Farms while walking home after his shift at The Rowhouse Grille in Federal Hill.
Holmes also appealed on another aspect of his case, arguing that police wrongly searched his apartment. The Court of Special Appeals rejected that argument, saying the home was Chadwick’s, and therefore he had no legal right to challenge the search.