DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A jury has found Sandra Layne guilty of second degree murder in the shooting death of her teenage grandson.
Layne claimed she was acting in self-defense on May 18, 2012 when she shot 17-year-old Jonathan Hoffman in the condo they shared in West Bloomfield Township.
Calling her mother a “monster,” Jennifer Hoffman said the 75-year-old deserves to be in prison for fatally shooting her son.
“It’s really hard to comprehend that your own mother could do something like this to your own child,” she said. “I just know that my son is in heaven, and that’s a place that she’ll never see.”
Jennifer Hoffman and her ex-husband, Michael Hoffman, said the verdict is “vindication” for their son, whose actions and lifestyle were called into question through Layne’s testimony.
AUDIO: PARENTS OF HOFFMAN REACT
“It’s a final vindication for my son, to restore his good name and reputation, because over the course of the last nine months, it’s been tarnished in a very cruel manner,” Michael Hoffman said.
Jonathan Hoffman called 911 after being shot three times and told a dispatcher “I’ve just been shot… My grandma shot me. I’m going to die. Help.” While still on the phone with operators, Layne apparently shot the teen again, the sounds of which were captured on the call.
Police said Layne fired a total of 10 rounds, striking her grandson six times. Officers testified they arrived on the scene to find Layne holding a 9mm Glock in her hand shouting, “I murdered my grandson.”
Layne said she “adored” her grandson, but their relationship changed when the teen got involved with drugs. Defense attorney Jerome Sabbota said Layne lived in fear of the teen, who violently attacked her that day.
Jennifer Hoffman acknowledged that the teen had used drugs but said she wasn’t aware of any deeper conflict between him and her mother. The Hoffmans, who are divorced, moved to Arizona from Michigan to take care of their daughter, who has a brain tumor. They said Layne had offered to take in Jonathan Hoffman for his final year of school in 2011.
On the stand last week, Layne described herself as a big-hearted grandma who felt overwhelmed when Jonathan Hoffman was briefly hospitalized for drug use a year ago. She said he was loud, coarse and argumentative in subsequent weeks and, on the day of the shooting, had tested positive for so-called synthetic marijuana, which could have triggered a probation violation.
Layne said her grandson had demanded $2,000 and her car so that he could flee Michigan because he had failed a drug test, which could have been a probation violation. She claimed he kicked her and struck her in the face before she shot him.
“I wanted him to pay attention to me. He had to listen. It wasn’t a conversation. It was arguing. Swearing,” Layne testified, through tears.
“Did you want to kill this young man?” Sabbota asked.
“Of course not. I still love him,” Layne said.
But prosecutor Paul Walton noted that Layne never called 911 to report the shooting, nor did she tell police she had been attacked when she immediately confessed to the killing. A hospital nurse who examined her after her arrest said Layne had no injuries and had spoken lovingly about her grandson.
Defense attorney Jerome Sabbota said Layne was “devastated” by the verdict and is sorrowful over her grandson’s death.
“She punishes herself every day,” he said. “The legal system does what the legal system does. The jury felt that it wasn’t appropriate self-defense.”
WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton said jurors examined more than 200 pieces of evidence before reaching a verdict. Jurors declined to comment following the verdict, but reportedly told attorneys during a private meeting that Jonathan Hoffman’s 911 call was crucial to their decision. It revealed that Layne had left Hoffman bleeding but then returned with more gunfire.
“They said they played it over and over and over again” in the jury room, Walton said. Sabbota agreed that jurors found the “911 call was critical.”
Michael Hoffman said his son, clad only in socks and athletic shorts when he was shot, showed “amazing courage” in his final moments of life.
Without the 911 call, the father said, “we could have had a very different result” at trial.
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