Jury deliberates case against Michigan grandmother

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Associated Press

Posted on March 18, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 18 at 3:07 PM

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A woman "hunted down" her teenage grandson in her suburban Detroit home and shot at him 10 times over a six-minute span, ignoring his desperate pleas for help to a 911 dispatcher, a prosecutor told jurors Monday, urging them to convict her of first-degree murder.

Summing up his case against 75-year-old Sandra Layne, prosecutor Paul Walton again played Jonathan Hoffman's 911 call last May in which he said his grandmother had just shot him. "I'm going to die," the 17-year-old said before he was shot again with the dispatcher on the line.

There is no dispute that Layne, then 74, fired the shots in her West Bloomfield Township home, striking her grandson six times. The question for jurors: Should she be held criminally responsible for Hoffman's death and, if so, how?

Jurors deliberated for less than two hours before going home. They could acquit Layne based on her self-defense argument or convict her of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

Layne testified that she was afraid of her grandson and acted in self-defense. She said she shot him after he struck her during an argument over money that he had demanded from her so he could flee Michigan. A drug test earlier that day had detected so-called synthetic marijuana, which could have triggered a parole violation.

Walton reminded jurors that Layne didn't report any injuries to police when they arrived at her home during the shooting.

"Not I was afraid, I acted in self-defense, he came after me," Walton said. "I murdered. I shot. I killed — those are her first statements to law enforcement. ... She hunted down Jonathan Hoffman because he wouldn't listen."

He called it a "massacre." Walton said Hoffman had made plans to attend a bonfire that night with friends, not escape in Layne's car.

"Her glasses aren't askew. Her makeup isn't smudged. No injuries to her face. ... If there's a self-defense claim here it belongs to Jonathan Hoffman, not Sandra Layne," the prosecutor said.

Defense attorney Jerome Sabbota urged jurors to acquit Layne, asking them to view the incident through the eyes of a woman in her 70s. He said Layne was taking care of a teenager who had used drugs and brought strangers to the home. Hoffman's parents were divorced and living in Arizona during his senior year of high school.

"Is there really a motive to murder her grandson? What does she gain?" Sabbota asked. "She killed a child she was trying to protect and trying to save. That's a tragedy. Only one reason she did what she did: fear."

Sabbota also played a 911 recording for the jury, a call that Layne made to police two months before Hoffman was killed. Sounding desperate and anguished, she said she needed help because her grandson wanted to run away from her home.

"Does she sound calm, cool and collected? Does she sound like Tony Soprano?" Sabbota said, referring to the mob kingpin on HBO's "The Sopranos."

Oakland County Judge Denise Langford Morris told jurors that acquittal based on self-defense could be appropriate if Layne "honestly and reasonably believed" that her life was in danger — even if she was wrong.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

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