By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
A Coweta County Superior Court jury took less than three hours Friday to find Michelle Garner Hall guilty on all counts in the death of her husband.
Hall was convicted of malice murder in the July 30, 2008, shooting death of her husband, John “Britt” Hall. Hall was also convicted of felony murder and aggravated assault.
She was sentenced to life for the murder charges and 20 years for aggravated assault. The two murder charges were merged, said Coweta Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Kevin McMurry, who prosecuted the case.
Hall will become eligible for parole after 30 years.
McMurry and defense attorney Michael Kam finished closing arguments Friday morning. The jury began deliberations around 11:30.
“It was a tough case. We thank the jury for their service,” said McMurry after sentencing.
“I’m pleased with the verdict. I think it is a verdict that reflects what actually happened that night, and it has affected a lot of people’s lives,” McMurry said.
“My heart goes out to all the kids and family members who will be affected. From my perspective, it is the right result, but it is going to be difficult for a lot of people.”
Kam did not respond to requests for comment.
In closing arguments, McMurry focused on inconsistencies in Hall’s story, and the improbability that things happened as she said they did.
Kam focused on the fallibility of memory, and how confusing things can get in a stressful situation.
“She can’t keep her story straight. It doesn’t make any sense,” McMurry told the jury.
McMurry particularly focused on Britt Hall’s third wound. That shot shattered the bones in his elbow. The prosecution believes that Britt Hall, wounded in both the leg and the chest, crawled toward a nearby bathroom — a place he knew had a lock on the door.
The prosecution stated that Hall shot her husband the third time in the bathroom. “She never even explained the third shot,” McMurry said.
McMurry said Kam had worked “to get that shot out of the bathroom — because he knows that shows the malice of that woman.”
The trial was Michelle Hall’s time in court, but “this is Britt’s day in court as well,” McMurry said Friday. “Britt doesn’t get to come in here and speak to you. Britt doesn’t get to hold his children.”
“This case is all about the brain,” said Kam during closing arguments. “It is about memory, our reactions … about how we perceive things,” Kam said. “This is about Michelle and Britt Hall; it’s also about the rest of us. I want you to be cognizant of some of the things that happened in this courtroom and why they happened.”
“From the moment the investigators arrived on the scene, they decided this was murder,” Kam said, “based on nothing other than the fact he was found in the bathroom. From that moment on, they decided that Michelle Hall was lying and everything she said was a lie.”
Kam offered an example of how stories can change, not because anyone is lying, but because of stress and the situation.
“Let’s say you have a 2-year-old,” Kam said. “They are rambunctious. They are hard to keep up with, and for some reason, when you run after them they think it is a game and they run.”
Say you go to a store in Atlanta with the child, he said. The child acts up and gets spanked. Then you take the child outside. You briefly look in a store window, turn around, and the child is running toward the road. You run after him; he keeps running, into the road, and is struck by a car.
You make a 911 call. The operator asks what happened, “and you’re saying, I was just standing here, I didn’t let him out of my sight for a minute.”
Then when the investigator questions you and you give more details “the investigator says she changed the story,” Kam said. Then the police ask for more information, and you tell them you had been in the store earlier and the child was acting up.
“Wait a minute. You didn’t tell us before you were in the store, you didn’t tell us before that the child had been acting up,” Kam said. “Your story doesn’t add up. You are lying!”
“Memory is fallible,” Kam concluded.
Even though many of the jurors are taking notes, when they go to deliberate, “somebody is going to say, ‘No, that’s not what happened. I’ve got it in my notes,’” Kam said.
“If you go back to that jury room and try to remember what witness testified in what order or on a particular day, you’re not going to be able to do that,” Kam said.
“Yet they are saying that Michelle Hall, in the throes of this life-and-death situation, was supposed to remember everything in its order, the way it occurred,” Kam said.
“And they keep telling her she’s a liar because she didn’t say everything at one time,” but as she remembered it.