2 years after CresCom double murder, Brandon Council’s death penalty trial set to begin

A jury will soon hear arguments on whether Brandon Council committed a double murder at a Conway bank and if he should be executed for his alleged crime.

A 16-member jury panel was selected in Florence federal court on Monday. The selection ended months of whittling down a pool of thousands of potential jurors. About 70 prospective jurors filled the courtroom as members of the media, family of the victims and others watched from an overflow courtroom.

The trial is expected to begin in earnest on Tuesday with opening statements.

Judge R. Bryan Harwell reminded the panel to avoid talking about the case or reading news reports as he dismissed them for the day.

“You have been selected because you can be fair and impartial,” Harwell said, “and I want you to remain that way.”

Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Police accused Council of killing two employees at the Conway CresCom bank in August 2017. Council was present for the final day of jury selection and wore a blue sports coat and had his dreadlocks tied up behind his head.

About a half-dozen lawyers and experts were with Council at his defense table, while a similar number sat on the prosecution side of the room.

Council, of Wilson, North Carolina, was indicted in September 2017 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. He is accused of shooting Kathryn “Katie” Davis Skeen and Donna Major while robbing the CresCom Bank in Conway on Aug. 21.

The two worked at the bank at the time of the robbery.

A death penalty trial has two parts. The first is to determine if a defendant is guilty. If the defendant is found guilty, the trial moves into the penalty phase, which is heard by the same jury. The prosecution presents evidence that shows a murder is worse than others, while defense teams argue why a person should not receive the death penalty.

If the jury decides against the death penalty, the only other option is to sentence a convicted person to life in prison.

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Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.