Death penalty trial begins for double murder suspect in Wake County

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The death penalty trial of Seaga Gillard got underway on Monday in Wake County after more than a month of jury selection.

Gillard is charged along with Xavier Hill with first-degree murder in the double homicide of the parents of three children.

April Lynn Holland and Dwayne Garvey were gunned down in a room at the Best Value Inn in Raleigh's Crabtree Valley in December 2016.

Prosecutor David Saacks told jurors on Monday that they would see direct evidence of that shooting and the shooting of the father of Holland's three children in the hallway outside the room by Gillard's co-defendant.

WATCH: Prosecutor makes opening statement
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The prosecutor laid out his case against Seaga Gillard in opening statements Monday, Feb. 11, 2019.

The crime was caught on a surveillance camera.

"This hallway camera is recording and captures exactly what happens," Saacks said.

Surveillance cameras captures events the night of the crime.

Saacks made it clear to jurors that Holland -- who was pregnant -- was a prostitute and was at the hotel turning tricks. He said Garvey was her partner in selling sex.

He then put jurors on the spot.

"Do they matter? Do Dwayne and April matter?" He asked. "Will they be afforded the same consideration and the same justice that anyone of us would expect?"

Several witnesses who were staying at the hotel took the stand after opening statements.

They described hearing the fatal shots -- nine of them -- just before 5 a.m.

Some saw the aftermath.

"They didn't block it good enough, so we seen his body just laying there like in the lobby," said Briana Galvez, a hotel guest.

WATCH: Seaga Gillard's defense attorney gives opening statement
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The defense team for Seaga Gillard gave its opening statement Monday, Feb. 11, 2019.

Gillard's attorney, Edd Roberts, had a brief opening statement. He never said Gillard didn't gun down Hollard, but he did say this:

"What was the thinking?" Roberts asked. "And at the end of the day, I would tell you it was not a planned, premeditated killing."

Earlier, jurors had heard the prosecutor say that Gillard certainly did think about the crime after it was committed because his phone showed two curious internet searches.

"One is a search for 'what can you get for a double homicide in North Carolina.' Then after that, it's a search about and some research about 'what states have fetal homicide laws,'" Saacks said.

The motive may come into focus during the trial but it appears one of the defendants may have known Holland. It should be noted that the prosecution doesn't have to prove a motive.

Death penalty trials are rare across the state. The Center for Death Penalty Litigation has criticized Wake County for continuing to seek the death penalty even though juries in the county repeatedly reject it.

Wake County hasn't imposed a death penalty since July of 2007 when Byron Waring was sent to death row for the 2005 stabbing death of Lauren Redman.

Since then, nine consecutive juries in Wake County death-penalty cases have opted for life without parole.

The last one was a year ago when Donovan Richardson was given two sentences of life without parole for a double murder.

There have only been 12 capital murder trials statewide since 2016 and three were in Wake County.

So this trial may further test the viability of the death penalty in Wake County and even in the state.

Death penalty trials are longer and cost more than non-capital cases.
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