Thousands of South Carolinians will be in the initial jury pool to decide if Brandon Council is guilty and should be put to death for a double-murder and bank robbery at the Conway CresCom in August 2017.
The jury pool will consist of 2,000 people from across the state and will start with an initial questionnaire sent on Oct. 1, according to an order submitted by a federal judge this week.
Jury selection will begin with that questionnaire and months ahead of Council’s January trial at the federal court in Florence.
Council, of Wilson, North Carolina, was indicted by a federal grand jury in September for armed robbery resulting in death, using a firearm in a violent crime that resulted in murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Police say he shot Kathryn “Katie” Davis Skeen and Donna Major while robbing the CresCom Bank in Conway on Aug. 21.
Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty and rejected a plea offer that would have put Council in jail for life.
During a recent hearing, attorneys said the jury for the guilt phase will be the same as the one for the death-penalty phase. People who oppose the death penalty would be excused from the panel.
There are also several groups that will also automatically be excused from the initial pool. That includes people over 70 years old, those who served on a federal jury in the last two years, people who care for a child or an infirmed person whose safety would be jeopardized if the caregiver is absent, volunteer firefighters, and those whose work could close if they are required to serve on a jury.
Active military members, police officers and public officials will also not serve.
Lawyers will then work to whittle down the list of potential jurors from 2,000 to hundreds. Those individuals will move to the next stage which includes answering another questionnaire at the federal courthouse in Florence. From there the pool will continue to shrink until a group of 70 people are deemed qualified jurors.
It’s from that last group a 16 person jury — four will serve as alternates — will be selected.