Defense argues Wendell double-killer should be spared because of PTSD, troubled childhood

Nathan Holden in the courtroom during his trial. (pool video)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A convicted killer must wait one more night to learn his punishment.

A Wake County jury convicted Nate Holden on Monday of two counts of first-degree murder for the 2014 shooting deaths of Anglia and Sylvester Taylor. The shootings at the Taylors’ home also wounded their daughter LaTonya, Holden’s estranged wife.

He then fired shots at deputies, and prosecutors told jurors Holden should be executed for his actions. Attorneys for the state and the defense made their closing arguments Thursday afternoon.

Jurors will receive instructions Friday morning from Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway about the rules for making a decision to recommend the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Deliberations will then begin. If juror’s opt for a death sentence, it’s unclear when or if Holden would be executed. The state hasn’t executed any criminals since 2006 due to a moratorium.

“The ultimate question before you is the value of this man’s life,” defense attorney Elizabeth Hambourger told the jury.

She said Holden wanted deputies to kill him in a standoff after the murders.

“In that moment, Nate saw no value in his life, and now, amazingly, that decision, that decision on how to place value on this man’s life is placed in your hands. Your 24 hands,” Hambourger said.

“This is not a case that calls for the death penalty,” she said. “Please return a verdict of life.”

Prosecutors told the jurors the decision they are about to make is the most serious thing they will ever be asked to do.

Assistant district attorney Matt Lively showed the 12 men and women the gun used to kill the Taylors and to shoot LaTonya Taylor Allen in the head and chest. Lively held up the bullet casings one at a time as he recapped Holden’s actions.

The jury is to weigh the aggravating factor in this case — the fact that Holden committing each killing during a course of conduct that included other crimes of violence — against more than three-dozen mitigating factors such as what could have caused Holden to harm his victims.

Defense attorneys brought up Holden’s background, which included a rough childhood due to an alcoholic and drug addicted mother, and a father who abused his mother. A defense witness during the sentencing phase said Holden suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his upbringing and being physically harmed during a home invasion in 2009.

Prosecutors attempted to discredit this diagnosis Thursday.

“Sad things, sad things that don’t bring back the Taylors and don’t excuse his actions,” Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller said. “This is the most important thing that the defendant ever did in his life and it is much more significant than the 39 things that they’re going to ask you to consider, and it didn’t have to happen.”

Lively said PTSD is not a license to kill people who make you mad.

The defense asked the jury to think of Holden’s three children when making their sentencing recommendation. LaTonya Taylor Allen hid the children in a closet in the room where her estranged husband shot her. Evidence in the case showed blood on the carpet and toys right next to the closet door.

Lively said the jury should think of that moment when considering the children.

“You want to talk about loving your kids, loving your family, wanting to be with your kids, wanting to be with your family. Inches away, that’s not love,” he said.

He told the jurors to think about being in a diner and hearing about what happened in this case.

“If you’re at that restaurant and you hear the description of someone that shot at four police officers, beat a woman and shot her in the chest and face, shot a woman in the heart, and shot a man four times,” Lively said.

“You’ve got to ask yourselves at this point, what does that person deserve? To live or die? I would argue to you that the law supports a death sentence in this case, and that’s what I’m asking you to do.”

Defense attorney Jonathan Broun said the murders of Sylvester and Anglia Taylor do not justify the death penalty. He said it is only for the worst of the worst.

“As tragic and heartbreaking as these crimes are, they do not prove that Nate is the worst of the worst. They don’t prove that he is so beyond redemption that the only possible punishment is death,” Broun said.

“The worst of the worst, those who’ve killed before, those whose history is so terrible that execution is the only way to insure that they don’t kill again.”

Broun said Holden’s children may never want to have anything to do with their father again, and that’s going to be part of his life in jail.

He asked the jury to spare Holden’s life, but said a life sentence is still a severe punishment. There is no hope and no future to look forward to, as there is no possibility of parole. But Broun said there is possibility for the story of Holden’s life to continue.

“We know where it will end. It will end in prison. You will now decide how it will end,” Broun said as he finished his closing arguments.

“Punish Nate harshly, punish him severely, but punish him appropriately and with compassion. Sentence Nate Holden to life in prison without parole.”

Holden did not take the stand during any portion of his trial.

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