The defense attorney for Brandon Lind said it was a compromise verdict.
And the right one.
Although prosecutors were seeking second-degree murder convictions for Mr. Lind, 19, and his co-defendant, Jon Lee, 17, neither the judge nor jury who heard the case agreed.
Instead, in a bench trial, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Philip A. Ignelzi found Mr. Lind guilty of third-degree murder, and the jury, which was hearing Mr. Lee's case, found the same.
Both young men, along with a third co-defendant, Devele Reid, 24, of Hazelwood will be sentenced on March 13.
Mr. Reid, who fired the shot that killed Jordan Coyner during a robbery at his parents' home in Kennedy last year, was found guilty by Judge Ignelzi of second-degree murder, and faces a mandatory prison term of life without parole.
A business major at Slippery Rock University, Coyner, 20, was killed on June 18, 2012, when a group of five young men arrived at his parents' home.
They sought to rob him because he sold marijuana and was believed to have a lot of cash. Mr. Lind, who played on the Montour High School golf team with Coyner's brother, identified him as the target.
According to evidence presented at trial, Mr. Lind drove the vehicle, and he and his brother, Michael Shearn, a juvenile who was not charged, stayed in the car. Mr. Lee, Mr. Reid and another young man, Dmetrei McCann, who is being tried in juvenile court, went up to Coyner's house.
As Mr. Reid was getting out of the car, Mr. Lind said to him, "For God's sake, don't kill him."
Mr. Reid, who had a handgun, went into the home, and within a couple minutes, a shot was fired, and he ran out.
Assistant district attorney Michael Berquist argued for second-degree murder for all three defendants, saying that they all conspired in the robbery together, and under Pennsylvania's felony murder rule, they were all equally culpable in Coyner's death.
But Mr. Lind's defense attorney, Patrick Thomassey, said that the felony murder rule is "terrible."
"We have too many young kids who never got out of the car doing life," he said. "I think this verdict calls out for a change in the law."
Mr. Thomassey called the third-degree conviction appropriate and said his client originally offered to plead guilty to that charge.
The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for nearly two days before announcing its verdict.
All three men also were found guilty of robbery and conspiracy.
Had Mr. Lee or Mr. Lind been found guilty of second-degree murder, they would have faced a mandatory minimum 35 years in prison -- instead of life -- because they were juveniles at the time the crime occurred.
Under Pennsylvania law, there is no mandatory minimum prison term for third-degree murder. There is, however, a maximum of 20 to 40 years.
Coyner's father, Richard Coyner, said he believed Mr. Lind should have been found guilty of second-degree because without his involvement the others would never have known his son to rob him.
"He's the one that brought them into Kennedy Township," Mr. Coyner said. "I felt Brandon was as responsible."
He described his son as quiet, loving and kind: "He would help anybody."
Jordan Coyner was a football fanatic, played linebacker and running back in high school, and hoped to go into some kind of sports management after college. His dad envisioned him as being a coach someday.
"For 18 months, my son has been portrayed as something he wasn't," Mr. Coyner said. "Today, I think we got our justice."
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620. First Published December 13, 2013 4:09 PM