Crime

Why a Conway double-murderer on federal death row says he should get a new trial

The man on federal death row for killing two employees at a Conway bank says he should be given a new trial.

Brandon Council said his death sentence should be tossed because of errors with the government’s case and his sentence was unconstitutional.

Last month a federal jury found Council guilty of killing Donna Major and Katie Skeen in August 2017 during a robbery at the Conway CresCom. The jury sentenced him to death, and a federal judge immediately imposed the sentence after the three-week trial.

In August 2017, Council was on the run from two other robberies when he came to Conway from his North Carolina home. He stayed at a hotel for several days, and on Aug. 21 went to the CresCom bank.

Inside, he waited for 45 seconds at Major’s teller stand, pulled out a .22 revolver and shot Major twice. Skeen yelled from her nearby office, and Council ran toward her and shot Skeen as she hid under a desk.

Council returned to Major and shot her for a third time as she was dying on the floor.

Council then robbed the bank before fleeing the area in Skeen’s car. He went to North Carolina and bought a BMW and partied using money stolen from the bank. North Carolina police arrested Council, and he provided a full confession.

The government laid out a bevy of evidence and emotional testimony during its case as it tried to convince the jury to sentence Council to death.

On Monday, Council’s attorneys asked for a new trial in a federal court filing. They said the government provided contradictory reasons for some of its aggravating factors. Those factors are aspects that make a crime worse than others.

Council’s attorneys say the jury was told that Council killed so he could get “easy money,” according to his filing. But, they argue, that the jury was also instructed that Council knew he could complete the robbery without killing innocent victims.

Defense attorneys say that since the ideas contradict each other, that Council’s death sentence is tainted.

Council also argued the sentence was unconstitutional because of language in the Federal Death Penalty Act. The act calls for a defendant to be executed using the methods from the state he is convicted.

The defense contends the language that passed the decision on how to perform an execution from federal authority to the state’s decision is unconstitutional.

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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.
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