A jury recommended Wednesday, March 9, by a vote of 7-5, to give the death penalty to William Gregory for the 2007 murders of Skyler Meekins and Daniel Dyer, on John Anderson Highway.
Judge William A. Parsons, at the Foxman Justice Center, in Daytona Beach, will weigh heavily the recommendation, according to the law, and make the final determination in an April 1 hearing.
The penalty phase followed the trial, in which the jury convicted Gregory of two counts of first-degree murder, and other charges.
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Below is an account of both attorneys' closing arguments in the penalty phase.
Assistant State Attorney Jacquelyn Roys
Assistant State Attorney Jacquelyn Roys reiterated the background to the jury. Gregory and Meekins had a child together; later, she broke up with him. When he heard she had a new boyfriend, Dyer, Gregory is said to have made threats.
Roys said: “William Gregory said: ‘If Skyler ever left me, I’m going to blow her head off. If she ever cheated on me, I’m going to kill her.’”
Meekins called Dyer to invite him to stay the night for the first time, and Gregory learned of it. He had lived with Meekins at her grandmother’s house previously.
Roys then went on to tell the story of the night of the murders, in 2007.
“On the morning of Aug. 21, William Gregory went to carry out his plan … Billy Gregory decided he was taking care of his problem, and his problem was Skyler not wanting to be with him, and Dan being with Skyler.
“So when he did to go over that day to that house, he made a conscious decision to kill Dan and Skyler, and he carried out that decision.”
According to Roys’ narrative, Gregory then retrieved a shotgun from the closet and loaded it with two bullets.
“He walked into Skyler Meekins’ room,” Roys said, “where she and Dan were sleeping. There was no scuffle, no argument. There were two people soundly sleeping, not knowing that Billy Gregory came over to kill them.
“Upon entering the room, he walked up to the bed and put the gun within an inch of Daniel’s face, on Skyler’s face, we don’t know what order. But we know that both of them were going to be dead. He made up his mind.
“He puts the gun to their face, and at this point, William Gregory could have decided to spare those two sleeping people’s lives. He was undetected; he could have turned around and walked away. He could have left, but he was there to carry out his plan.
“You don’t put a shotgun to someone’s face at close range and not intend that they die. William Gregory wanted them dead.
“He made the conscious decision to pull that trigger. And after doing it the first time, instead of stopping and walking away and letting that second person live, he again pulled the trigger. Because he went over there with a plan.
“He go out of the house, not waking anybody. He went to the waiting car, and he sped off. At any time, Gregory could have stopped this. At any time, William Gregory could have changed his plan …
“He had time to reflect and think about the consequences. There was no stopping him because he set in motion his goal when he left that house.
“It was cold. Calm and cool reflection. He calmly and coolly made the decision. He had ample opportunity to stop, to spare Daniel and Skyler’s lives. Calculated, careful plan.
“You don’t have a car waiting, you don’t load two bullets, you don’t walk across a room and put that gun to two people’s faces without a prearranged design.
“It was a heightened level of premeditation, demonstrated by a substantial period of reflection.
“Nobody jumped him, nobody confronted him at any time when he stood and walked within inches of these people. He could have spared their lives, and he chose not to. He followed his plan.”
Roys said that when the jurors were able to review the evidence from the trial, they should conclude that Gregory should get the death penalty.
“And we’re asking that you recommend that to the judge,” she said.
Defense Attorney Garry Wood
Next, it was the defense’s turn. According to the judge’s instructions, the jury needed to weigh the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating circumstances. In other words, they needed to determine whether any factors in Gregory’s past should lessen the penalty from death to life in prison.
Wood said: “Each one of you, each 12 of you that goes into the jury room, have to individually weigh the testimony, the evidence, and decide for yourself whether this man, William Gregory, should be put to death as the state asks, or whether or not he should receive life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“You have found Mr. Gregory guilty of both charges. (Now you have to decide), ‘What are we going to do with Mr. Gregory? What is his punishment going to be for those two charges?’
“And to put it bluntly, what we’re talking about is how he’s going to die.
“If you vote for life in prison, he will die in prison. As many days as it takes, as many weeks as it takes, or years as it takes, he will die in prison. He can be sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
“Unlike the guilt phase, when you have to be unanimous … in this phase, you each have your own vote. And so when you go into the jury room, talk about the evidence in this case. Talk about what you’ve heard today, and the guilt phase, and decide for yourself what is the appropriate punishment …
“We’ve heard a lot about this plan that the state has talked about, this aggravating circumstance of ‘cold, calculating and premeditated.’ Let’s talk about that aspect. For the state to present an aggravated circumstance, they have to prove to you beyond every reasonable doubt, and since this is my only opportunity, I am compelled to talk to you about reasonable doubt.
“But what evidence is there that he had a plan that he had thought out calmly and coolly over a long period of time to kill anybody?
“You know Dan Dyer was called by Skyler Meekins around 10 p,m. at night. She had had a dentist appointment the following morning. So for the first time, Daniel Dyer spends the night at Skyler Meekins’ house.
“What had been going on with Mr. Gregory until that point of time?
“He’s out doing drugs with his brother … Cocaine, pills, beer. Going to more places, doing more drugs. Is he talking about hurting anybody? No, according to (his brother). Is he talking about hurting anybody? No, according to (his friend, who testified earlier).
“Where’s his plan?
“At 11 p.m., Dyer goes to (Meekins’ house). Gregory is making phone calls until 11:30 p.m.
“Where’s his plan that they say they’ve proven to you beyond a reasonable doubt? That’s for you to decide. I submit to you they have not proven any kind of plan over any period of time.
“How is he to know Daniel Dyer was over at that house? How is he to know Daniel Dyer was over there ahead of time? There has been no testimony of any kind (to prove that).
“When they came home, he went to the bedroom with his brother. He made phone calls. There is no evidence of a plan here. Go back and review your memory of (the evidence) …
“I submit to you that that aggravated circumstance has not been proven beyond any reasonable doubt.
“The defendant has presented mitigating circumstances … We do not have to prove those mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. But you know from two state witnesses that Mr. Gregory has been drinking and doing drugs. You can think about his state of impairment that evening.
“Talk amongst yourselves about his drug history, doing methamphetamines from a young age …
“You know Mr. Gregory had problems growing up. He grew up without his father. His mother left his father. His father was physically abusive and deadbeat.
“You heard the devastation being imposed on (his sister), being held at knifepoint and raped … Having to witness your own sister being raped at knifepoint. The perpetrator was the landlord above them, but they had to move in a small town in Montana.
“You can consider that and the effect it had on Mr. Gregory’s life.
“You know that Mr. Gregory has two children. He has Kyla. He has another child, 10 now, who lives out in California, that he’s never seen. And you can weigh and consider all these things.
“It’s up to you individually to decide how much weight to give to these mitigating circumstances. And I submit to you those mitigation factors do outweigh the aggravating circumstances.
“But let’s about some important concepts, too.
“When you’re talking about the difference between the death penalty, and imposing live without the possibility of parole … we’re not talking about leniency. Think about that concept of serving a life sentence without a possibility of parole and what really that means. It’s punishment every day …
“He’ll have to survive every day in prison and get through each day, until one day, when his body gives out, and he dies. Which will happen. None of us live forever. So one day, Mr. Gregory — it could be 20, 30, 40 years, whatever the days may be. They will be endless for him, 365 days a year, until he is put in a pine box and leaves the prison a dead man.
“Weigh everything. That’s what we’re asking you for. Not leniency. It is punishment. It’s also a decision that you can make that follows the law. (The judge) will give you an instruction when considering weighing the mitigating.
“Regardless of your findings in this respect, however, you are neither compelled nor required to recommend a sentence of death.
“Is it appropriate, ladies and gentleman, to consider all the testimonies … We ask you to follow the law that allows for life without the possibility without parole …
“Justice in this case is a recommendation for life without parole.”