Judge denies motion to toss confession of man accused of killing two Conway bank employees

Brandon Council Hearing

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Family members of the two women killed during a 2017 Conway bank robbery were in federal court in Florence Wednesday as a judge denied a motion to exclude the confession of the man accused in their murders.

Brandon Council faces a death sentence after he allegedly shot and killed Katie Skeen and Donna Major during the robbery of the CresCom Bank in Conway.

Left: Katie Skeen, Source: Johnson Funeral Home. Right: Donna Major, Source: Donna Major's Facebook page
Left: Katie Skeen, Source: Johnson Funeral Home. Right: Donna Major, Source: Donna Major's Facebook page

The defendant, clad in an orange jumpsuit, appeared emotionless as the hearing proceeded.

Roughly 7 members of the victims’ families were also inside the courtroom. They remained quiet throughout with stoic facial expressions.

Judge Bryan Harwell noted in his ruling that Council voluntarily gave the confession, was read his Miranda rights, signed a form to wave those rights, didn’t request an attorney and indicated he wanted to talk.

In addition to denying the defense’s motion to toss Council’s reported confession, Harwell also denied a motion to exclude the search warrants involved in this case.

Four witnesses were called to the standing during the hearing. One was an FBI agent, who testified that he read Council his Miranda Rights, which were waived, and then interviewed him. Another was the officer in charge of obtaining the search warrant after the defendant allegedly said a handgun was inside a Mercedes.

Brandon Council (Source: Florence County Detention Center)
Brandon Council (Source: Florence County Detention Center)

Also used as the government’s evidence was footage from Council’s interview shortly after he was arrested during which he confessed to killing Donna Major and Katie Skeen.

The video shows Council in a small interview room. You can hear an FBI agent read Council his Miranda Rights. Afterwards you can see Council agrees to waive his rights and signs a form.

He does the same with a search consent form for his phone and the car he was driving during the arrest.

Council’s defense argued although Council was read his rights, the FBI didn’t thoroughly advise him on his ability to remain silent.

They also said the officers didn’t investigate whether Council was under the influence of drugs during the questioning and noted officers found marijuana in his pocket during his arrest.

However, the defense’s reasons weren’t enough to sway the judge.

Another motion from Council’s attorneys to strike four factors the prosecution plans to present to a jury in favor of the death penalty was also discussed. The judge did not rule on the motion during Wednesday’s hearing.

What was not discussed during the hearing was a motion recently filed by Council’s attorneys asking that his visitor logs at the Florence County Detention Center be suppressed and not open to discovery by the prosecution.

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