Jury rejects death penalty in Nathan Holden trial

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

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Jurors have sentenced convicted murderer Nate Holden to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Wake County jury found Holden guilty Monday of two counts of first degree murder, for the April 9, 2014 shooting deaths of his estranged wife’s parents, Sylvester and Anglia Taylor. Jurors also convicted Holden for the attempted murder of LaTonya Taylor Allen.

Holden was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, plus 240 to 300 months for the attempted murder of LaTonya Taylor Allen.

A victim’s family member had a message for Holden.

“Being that you have the chance to live more of your life, I know that they (Taylors) would want you to get your heart right with God. That’s the whole reason you’re still here, because if God saw intent for you to be gone, you would already be gone,” said Marktonio Royster, the son of Sylvester Taylor, Holden’s father-in-law, whom he killed.

“God loves you, Jesus loves you, he died and paid the price for your life. Submit to him and get your heart right.”

Prosecutors and defense attorneys called witnesses Tuesday through Thursday as they made their cases for and against the death penalty. Closing arguments lasted for more than two hours Thursday afternoon. Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway gave instructions to the jury Friday morning about their duty and requirements in making the sentencing decision.

Jurors had to weigh possible aggravating circumstances, which support the death penalty, against mitigating circumstances. Prosecutors argue there is one aggravating factor in this case, which is the pair of murders and other shootings committed by Holden on April 9, 2014.

State law classifies this possible aggravating circumstance as: The murder for which the defendant stands convicted was part of a course of conduct in which the defendant engaged and which included the commission by the defendant of other crimes of violence against another person or persons.

Judge Ridgeway clarified by saying that this would be committing a violent crime against other people in addition to killing one victim in about the same time frame.

If jurors do not unanimously agree that this aggravating circumstance exists, they must impose a sentence of life in prison.

The judge read a list of 39 possible mitigating factors for the jury to consider, agreed upon by the prosecution and defense. Judge Ridgeway said some tend to be supported by evidence in the case, and these are listed below as statements. Others are opinions for jurors to consider and decide based on witness testimony.

“The defense has the burden of persuading you that any mitigating circumstance exists,” Ridgeway said.

He told the jury there is not a mathematical formula. It does not matter how many mitigating factors they may identify.

“Each of you must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the imposition of the death penalty is justified,” he said.

The jury was to consider if these items are true, and if they have mitigating value which could lead to a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole rather than the death penalty.

1. Consider whether Holden has no significant history of prior criminal activity before the murder. This should be determined by the nature and quality of Holden’s history, not on the number of convictions.
2. Consider whether a capital felony was committed while Holden was under influence of mental or emotional disturbance.
3. Consider if Holden’s capacity to appreciate the criminality of the conduct, or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law, was impaired.
4. Consider whether Holden loves his children.
5. Consider whether Holden’s family was the most important thing in his life.
6. Holden was in a relationship with LaTonya Taylor since he was 14 years old.
7. Holden saw his father beating his mother.
8. Holden’s mother suffered from alcoholism. consider whether NH’s mother suffered from alcoholism.
9. Holden’s father father was unfaithful to his mother.
10. Holden’s mother began using crack cocaine when NH was in high school.
11. Consider whether Holden took good care of his kids.
12. Holden was sad about the end of his marriage.
13. Holden was only 15 when he had his first child.
14. Holden tried to stop his father from beating his mother.
15. Holden’s parents were teenagers when he was born.
16. Holden was beaten with a baseball bat when he was a teenager.
17. Holden was beaten by multiple men during a home invasion robbery.
18. Holden watched his mother raise other children that were the product of his father being unfaithful.
19. Consider whether Holden was a sweet child.
20. Holden was a barber and cut hair to provide for his family.
21. Holden had never been through a significant breakup before splitting with LaTonya Taylor Holden in 2013.
22. Consider whether Holden will be safely confined and managed within the North Carolina prison system for rest of his life.
23. Holden was never physically violent toward LaTonya Taylor Holden prior to their separation.
24. Consider whether Holden suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
25. Consider whether Holden could have benefited from mental health treatment but never received any.
26. Holden’s mother’s verbal IQ has been tested at 65, in a full scale score of 72.
27. Holden’s mother began drinking alcohol as a child, and if this has mitigating value. evidence shows this.
28. Holden encouraged his mother to get help for her substance abuse problems and took her to rehab.
29. Holden was upset when JT told him that Sylvester Taylor slapped him and pulled a gun on him.
30. Consider whether after the separation, Holden wanted to remain an active parent in his children’s lives.
31. Consider whether Holden’s family wants to continue to have him in their lives.
32. Holden’s only prior convictions are for misdemeanors and traffic violations.
33. Consider whether Holden’s family loves him.
34. Holden graduated from high school.
35. Consider whether Holden was a positive influence in the Brother’s Keeper program.
36. When Holden’s parents fought, he comforted her little sister. evidence shows this.
37. Consider whether Holden renovated his home so that children would have a nice place to stay.
38. Holden grew up in a house where his parents had violent fights.
39. Jurors may consider any other circumstance or circumstances arising from the evidence which they deem to have mitigating value.

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