Attorneys for Brandon Council asking court to rule on ‘tidal wave’ of testimony, exhibits during trial’s penalty phase

Attorneys for Brandon Council asking court to rule on ‘tidal wave’ of testimony, exhibits

FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) – Weeks before the scheduled start of accused killer Brandon Council’s trial, his attorneys are asking the court to order the prosecution to submit an outline of what evidence will be presented during the sentencing phase.

Council, who is accused of killing Donna Major and Katie Skeen during the August 2017 CresCom Bank robbery in Conway, is currently set to go to trial at the beginning of September.

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

In the event Council is found guilty of the murders, the trial will enter the penalty phase, where the jury would hear additional testimony and decide the appropriate punishment – life in prison or death.

Court documents filed Tuesday indicate the government plans to have at least 14 witnesses provide victim impact statements during the penalty phase. In addition, no fewer than 161 exhibits that include quilts, journals, videos, and text messages will be introduced.

Council's lawyers say this is a "tidal wave of victim impact evidence that appears calculated to overwhelm the jury's capacity for reasoned decision-making,” the defense’s response states.

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

"On its face, the government's 14-witness, 161-exhibit penalty phase presentation appears to risk converting the penalty phase into a multi-day memorial service - culminating in an appeal for the death penalty as catharsis," court documents state.

Defense attorneys are asking the court to order the prosecution to submit an "informative outline" of what, specifically, they plan to present during the penalty phase and which family members will be called, along with a summary of their testimony.

According to its response, this will give the defense the opportunity to raise objections to how much victim impact evidence will be presented and its relevance.

Council’s lawyers also want to be allowed to present evidence showing how his potential execution would impact his family. The government is asking that this testimony be excluded, court records show.

The defense cited case law in arguing its position.

“Evidence that Mr. Council’s family and friends would suffer if he were sentenced to die ‘is directly relevant to the question of whether he can lead a useful life if sentenced to life imprisonment because it tends to show that other people consider [him] valuable as a human being and would benefit from [his] survival,’” according to the response.

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