Defense rests in Brandon Council death penalty trial

Grand Strand Crime

UPDATE TUESDAY 1 PM: The Defense has rested in the death penalty sentencing trial of convicted murderer Brandon Council.

The trial will resume after a five-minute break.

Stay with News13 and for updates from the trial as they become available.

UPDATE TUESDAY 1 PM: The Defense presented Dr. Debra Gray, a licensed clinical social worker, who was hired by the defense to build a family Genogram on convicted murderer Brandon Council.

The Genogram is used to display a person’s family history and medical history. Gray spent 600 hours collecting information for the study.

Dr. Gray showed a family tree that included Council’s paternal side and Maternal side. On the paternal side, she saw a history of depression, PTSD, hallucinations, substance abuse and more.

She also interviewed 85 people to learn about Council’s background and said he was a good kid until the end of the seventh grade. Dr.Gray said this was a hard time in Council’s life due to his primary caregiver, his grandmother, dying. Council’s grades started dropping, he started hanging out in the streets, smoking marijuana, and ended up dropping out of school in the eighth grade.

There wasn’t much information on her mother’s side due to the family not cooperating with the study.

Dr. Gray will talk about how the Dobbs Juvenile Center impacted Council after the lunch break.

Count on News13 for updates from the trial as they develop.

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Brandon Council’s defense called sixteen witness Monday to testify about his background as the penalty phase of his murder trial continues.

Multiple witnesses testified that Brandon’s mother, Beth Spell, gave birth to him at a young age. They say Beth’s pregnancy was an “embarrassment” for the Spell family due to their involvement in the church. Spell’s mother, Betsy, was Council’s primary caregiver. The family would stay at Betsy’s home on Washington Street in Wilson, North Carolina which is known for drug-dealing, prostitution, and more.

Council’s step-aunt Sherri Lynn testified that Council’s mother never really showed him affection or interest. Beth’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy was a negative topic for Council’s grandmother, who was heavily involved in a church in Wilson.

Nevertheless, Lynn said Betsy took all responsibilities for Council along with making him attend church, monitoring his performance in school and keeping him away from trouble on Washington Street.

But, Betsy died from pancreatic cancer when Council was around 11 years old. Lynn said Betsy’s death impacted him significantly because she was his “mother.”

Council’s former sixth-grade teacher at Toisnot Middle School in Wilson also testified, saying she never had any issues with him and he always had above-average grades.

The defense also called Sharon Walker to the stand. She claimed to be the mother of one of Council’s childhood friends. She recalled Council coming to her home, saying “he was very impressionable, never rude, always respectable, I never had any problems with him.” She said Council started living in her garage without her knowing shortly after his grandmother’s death.

“He was really young to be homeless and that kind of disturbed me,” she added. Walker didn’t press charges and called Council’s uncle to come get him.

Following Walker’s testimony, the defense shifted their focus to a Dobbs Youth Development Center where Council attended as a minor during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Defense Attorneys said they discovered the center was a “rough” place for children.

Doctor Susan McCarter, a juvenile justice professional for North Carolina, said juvenile training center’s in the state had insufficient group treatment, family treatment and one-on-one therapy sessions during those years. The defense presented an audit completed by North Carolina’s Juvenile Justice System in the early 2000s that defended Dr.McCarter’s statements.

In the audit, North Carolina Juvenile Justice Spokesperson Billy Lasiter said,” Training schools used to be more focused on incarcerating kids in a prison environment.”

Six former Dobbs students testified about their experience’s at the center. All of them are now incarcerated within the North Carolina prison system.

Quinten Wingate was the first man to testify and claimed responsibility for introducing Council to marijuana on Washington Street. Council was only about 13 at the time.

“He was a soft kid. He wasn’t a street person,” Wingate said.

Kenneth Cox followed Wingates testimony, and said he also spent time on Washington Street. Cox was put in Dobbs three times, and said “It’s not a good place for young men to be reformed.”

According to Cox, Dobbs staff would encourage fights instead of preventing them.

“We called Dobb’s Gladiator School back then because it’s like you’re at constant war with somebody,” he said.

Other men testified that they were sexually abused by Dobbs staff members and other students. “It messed me up in the long run,” said Demetrius McMillan, a former Dobbs student.

McMillan said he was raped by another student, but no one believed him when he told staff. Instead, he said they placed him in a segregation room with the man who abused him. There was also a night officer who McMillan testified would take him out his room around 2 A.M. to sexually abuse him.

“I would rather be in prison than to be at Dobbs,” McMillan said.

Several of the men said there were staff members who knew what was happening, but believe they feared losing their jobs or retaliation,

“You get beat up, sexually harassed, everything. It just wasn’t fit for kids to be at,” said Larry Johnson, another former Dobbs student.

The defense had a total of 16 witnesses on Monday. Trial will continue on Tuesday.

Count on News13 for updates as Council’s trial continues.


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