Raleigh, N.C. — A Wake County jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon in the double murder trial of Nathan Holden.
“Everything about this case is heart-breaking,” defense attorney Jonathan Broun told the jury Thursday morning.
“But this not a case of first-degree murder.”
Holden, 32, does not deny that he shot and killed his ex-wife’s parents, Angelia Smith Taylor and Sylvester Taylor, and shot and pistol-whipped his ex-wife, LaTonya Allen, in April 2014. Whether his actions rise to the legal definition of first-degree murder was the key question as both sides made their closing arguments.
“As tragic and as sad as these events are … this was not a pre-mediated murder,” Broun said.
LaTonya Allen’s three children with Holden, a 15-year-old boy and two 8-year-old girls, were in the home at the time, but they were unharmed.
Defense attorneys said Holden was devastated by the end of his marriage and afraid of his father-in-law.
“Nate took his job as a father and a partner very seriously and did the best he could,” defense attorney Elizabeth Hambouger told the jury. “What Nate did was an undeliberated, impulsive act. He didn’t plan it. He didn’t want it to happen.
“He felt judged. He felt scared that he would lose his children. Of course he would react.”
Hambouger blamed tension in the family on “Sylvester’s tendency to overreact.”
Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller pointed the finger back at the defendant.
“This is about seeking justice and holding this defendant accountable for his actions,” he said.
He addressed Holden’s claims that he was in fear of his father-in-law and simply reacted to protect his children.
“You heard zero evidence that Sylvester Taylor had a gun. You heard zero evidence that the defendant thought he had a gun,” he said.
“Don’t buy it if they come up here and argue that somehow Sylvester brought it on himself,” Waller said.
He closed his argument by saying that Holden, who was in the midst of a divorce with Allen, was motivated to kill by his hatred for her.
“It’s about hate. It’s about selfishness, hating LaTonya for leaving, hating Sylvester and Angelia,” Waller said.
Broun and Hambouger focused on the first-degree murder charge in their closing arguments, but the judge instructed the jury that they could also consider a judgment of second-degree murder if they determine that pre-meditation and malice were not in play.
“The issue is, when he went there, did he act with pre-meditation and deliberation?” Broun said.
“He did not. That’s what he should be judged on.”
If the jury disagrees and finds Holden guilty of first-degree murder, he could face the death penalty.