FLORENCE, S.C. -- A federal jury will decide whether a man who shot and killed two employees during a South Carolina bank robbery is to receive the death sentence for his crimes.
The same jury in Florence found Brandon Council guilty Tuesday of armed bank robbery resulting in death, among other charges. After the verdict, jurors almost immediately began hearing evidence about whether Council will get life in prison or the death penalty for fatally shooting the manager and a teller at CresCom Bank in Conway in August 2017, news outlets reported.
Prosecutors have argued Council should be condemned to death, saying the Wilson, North Carolina, man claimed two innocent lives in a bid for easy money. Council's lawyers did not dispute his guilt and did not call any witnesses during the guilt phase. But they said he is remorseful and has cooperated with investigators.
Last week, the jury watched surveillance video of Council walking into the bank on Aug. 21, 2017 — the same day a full solar eclipse was seen in other parts of South Carolina and elsewhere.
Council stood by teller Donna Major for nearly a minute before pulling out a gun and shooting her first in the arm and then in the chest as the stunned teller held papers in front of her face trying to protect herself.
Manager Katie Skeen ran into her office and hid under her desk. Council shot her in the forehead, according to the video and testimony.
Council took $15,000 from the bank, including special bills that trigger a call to police if removed, authorities said. He then went back into Skeen's office and took the keys to her SUV to escape, prosecutors said. Council was arrested several days later at a Greenville, North Carolina, motel. He had bought a used Mercedes with the robbery money, according to his confession.
Council asked investigators if the women were still alive and cried when he found out they were dead.
"I'm a doofus. I'm an idiot," Council told police. "I don't deserve to live."
Council also admitted to two other robberies in North Carolina — at a Food Lion near Raleigh and a BB&T bank branch near Wilson — before heading to South Carolina. He told investigators he subsequently targeted the Conway bank after the money from the other robberies ran out.
Council said he struggled after serving six years in prison and that his father had kicked him out of his home, accusing him of selling drugs. He said he was homeless and felt worthless.
"I don't believe in trying to excuse your behavior," Council said. "I just felt like I was at the bottom and nothing to lose."