FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - The man accused of killing two women inside a Crescom Bank in 2017 was present for the first day of jury selection on Monday in his trial.
Brandon Council entered the courtroom in khakis, a suit jacket and glasses around 9:30 a.m. Monday. His hair was pulled back. He only spoke a few times but it was between him and his lawyers. He remained still, only looking toward the front of the courtroom, through the entirety of the first day.
The first 10 jurors entered the courtroom around 9:50 a.m. Trial judge Brian Harwell gave them an introductory speech, discussing their responsibility, how to go about finding the verdict and what to base a penalty on, if Council is found guilty and the trial goes to the second phase. Harwell read a list of 58 potential witnesses, mostly from North Carolina, to ask jurors if they knew them.
Harwell discussed mitigating and aggravating factors that’ll be used to determine a penalty, should the trial reach a second phase. He made it clear that potential jurors should put aside any biases and are also under oath. Before putting the first potential juror on the stand for questioning, two jurors were dismissed by the prosecution and defense.
For each potential juror, Harwell asked if the juror’s answers to two previous questionnaires were still true. The second questionnaire was the most case-related, specifically diving critically into each potential juror’s views on the death penalty. Harwell also determined if each potential juror could hand down the the death penalty or life in prison without parole, if Council is found guilty, based solely on facts and evidence brought fourth in trial. Harwell then asked any follow-up questions he had to a juror’s questionnaire answers.
The prosecution followed the judge’s questions, and then the defense.
The defense tended to take up more time than Harwell preferred, and was often asked to watch their time. The defense and prosecution centered questions for potential jurors to find out if a verdict and possibly a penalty could be decided based solely and fairly on facts and evidence provided in trial.
For the defense, this question involved a “hypothesized case” similar to Council’s, where the defendant was hypothetically found guilty of intentional murder. The defense wanted to ensure the potential juror would not automatically turn to the death penalty given a guilty sentence with intentional murder.
By late afternoon, two groups of ten jurors had made their way into the court room. Six were excused before taking the stand. By 4 p.m., only five were agreed upon as potential jurors.
The second day of jury selection continues Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Florence.