RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – How a convicted killer will die is now up to a Wake County jury.
Nine days after reaching unanimous guilty verdicts for Seaga Gillard on two counts of first-degree murder, the jurors began deliberations in the sentencing phase of the capital case. Gillard and another man shot and killed April Holland and Dwayne Garvey at a Raleigh motel in December 2016.
Prosecutors made closing arguments first as they called on the jurors to issue a death sentence Friday.
“Here we are. It’s time. It’s time now to talk about the elephant in the room,” assistant district attorney David Saacks said in his very first comments to the jury.
“We want to address the elephant in the room first, the big issue in this particular case, and that is the potential sentence that’s involved. The death penalty.”
Saacks reminded the jurors that all of them said during the jury selection process they could make a decision of life or death based on the evidence.
He said Gillard’s punishment is about more than just the night of Holland and Garvey’s murders. Nearly a dozen people testified Gillard robbed and raped several women throughout 2016. The ways in which he set up and committed these crimes was consistent and matched the initial events of his meeting with April Holland.
“When is it enough? When do you say enough already? This is a course of violent conduct that’s going on in our community. When do you say enough? This is it,” Saacks said.
“This is not about vengeance, this is not about retribution, this is not about getting even or an eye for an eye, or anything like that. This is about what it is, always has been, and always should be. It’s about justice.”
Saacks and assistant district attorney Kathryn Pomeroy said the sentencing can and should take into consideration providing justice to other victims. That includes at least six other women whom the prosecutors said suffered sexual assault and torture at the hands of Gillard.
Pomeroy pointed to Gillard’s phone records in the hours after the murders, which included internet searches for information about the shooting and for possible penalties for double homicide.
“The only thing he cared about is ‘what’s my punishment going to be?’ Right? That’s what he’s Googling,” Pomeroy said.
“He doesn’t care that he just gunned down a pregnant woman, a mother of three, and her boyfriend, the father. He doesn’t care about that. He cares about ‘what’s my punishment going to be?’ He doesn’t care about anybody else except himself.”
Pomeroy said Gillard played judge, jury, and executioner for Holland Garvey. She told the jury they now have the proper means of making the decision for Gillard’s fate.
The prosecutors told jurors the defense might try to convince them life imprisonment is a worse punishment than death.
“That’s what he (Gillard) is arguing for. That’s what he wants. He has taken enough of what he wants,” Pomeroy said.
“Where’s the justice? One homicide is life without parole. You get those seven women (raped and robbed before Holland) for free?”
Edd Roberts spoke first for the defense. He told the jurors about the execution process Gillard would face if sentenced to death.
The last execution in North Carolina happened in 2006.
“You’re choosing from the two most severe punishments that our criminal system has: life without parole and the death penalty. With your verdicts of guilt, you have ensured that Seaga’s punishment will be severe. His punishment will be never-ending. He will never know freedom again,” Roberts said.
“In North Carolina, death is by lethal injection. He’s strapped down on a gurney, injected with chemicals that slowly paralyzes him and slowly kills him.”
Roberts called on the jury to show mercy. He referenced scripture, quoting Jesus’s statement “Blessed are the merciful” from the Sermon on the Mount.
He also said he hopes none of his statements have offended the family members of April Holland and Dwayne Garvey who sat on the front row throughout the trial.
Defense attorney Jonathan Broun also expressed condolences to the victims’ families.
“We recognize that there’s been a lot of pain in this case. To the family of April Holland, we are so sorry. Your daughter and your sister did not deserve to die,” Broun said.
“To the family of Dwayne Garvey, we are so sorry. Your son and brother did not deserve to die. To their children, we are so sorry. Their parents did not deserve to die. And to all of the other people that have been hurt in this case, we offer our sympathies. Nobody deserves to go through what those folks went through.”
Broun stated Gillard will suffer if he receives life imprisonment, but said Gillard’s family will suffer if he is executed. The defense argued that executing Gillard will not change the pain felt by the victims’ families.
Gillard’s attorneys called him a flawed man with redeemable qualities and said he can still contribute to society by serving a lifetime prison sentence.
“Seaga Gillard needs to be punished,” defense attorney Broun said.
“He needs to be punished severely and forever, but can we punish him severely and forever without killing him. Each of you has to ask yourself ‘is the death penalty necessary?’ Can we punish Seaga severely and permanently with life imprisonment without parole? Do we actually need to Seaga? Can we show mercy?”
The jurors began deliberating shortly after 2 p.m. Friday and did not come to a decision.
Jurors are again deliberating Monday morning.