Suspect in bank robbery murders wants confession, evidence excluded from trial

Suspect in bank robbery murders wants confession, evidence excluded from trial
Image of Brandon Michael Council provided by Conway Police

CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) -- Attorneys for the man accused of murdering two bank employees in Conway want Brandon Council's alleged confession and items found in a vehicle he was seen driving before his arrest to not be allowed as evidence at trial.

Motions to suppress were filed on July 20th and July 23rd.

Council faces the death penalty for the murders of Donna Major, 59, and Kathryn "Katie" Skeen, 36, during an armed robbery of the CresCom Bank.

According to an affidavit written by an FBI special agent, Council confessed to the robbery and told agents "he was desperate, he needed money, and he knew that he was going to hurt somebody that day."

Prosecutors have said Council "displayed particular cruelty and callous disregard for human life by shooting both victims, who were unknown to him, multiple times at close range without warning and without provocation or resistance from the victims, in spite of the fact that such violence was not necessary to successfully complete the robbery of the CresCom bank."

According to federal court documents filed by Council's defense, Council's statements were unconstitutionally obtained in violation of his Miranda rights.

However, Council was advised of his Miranda rights, according to FBI officials and the recent court documents, and he signed a waiver of those rights.

Council's attorneys though are asking a judge to determine if their client fully understood what he was doing when he confessed to the crimes and abandoned his right to not incriminate himself.

"The prosecution has the burden of proof and must, at a minimum, prove the following: (1) that the defendant relinquished a known right –that is, Mr. Council "fully understood" his rights; and (2) that he was not only aware of the nature of the right being abandoned, but also that he understood the consequences of the decision to abandon it," court documents said.

Part of the defense's motion outlines possible issues of government coercion.

"A statement is coerced or involuntary if the action of the 'law enforcement officials was such as to overcome the will to resist and bring about a confession not freely self-determined,'" court documents said.

Council's attorneys are also arguing a search warrant used to search a white Mercedes he was believed to be driving when he was arrested in North Carolina was not supported by probable cause because of the issues stemming from the constitutionality of his confession.

Court documents say numerous items were found in the vehicle, including the gun allegedly used in the deadly bank robbery.

Council's attorneys want this evidence suppressed from trial, maintaining that any statements taken from Council and used as probable cause for the search warrant were taken in violation of Council's Miranda rights and were involuntary.