Mug shot of Sandra Layne

A 75-year old woman named Sandra Layne recently endured a jury trial because she shot her grandson.  The shooting was never in dispute, just her claim of self-defense.

Here is some background, gathered to support her defense.  Sandra Layne and her husband, Fred, had agreed to take into their Pontiac, Michigan home their 17- year old grandson, Jonathan Hoffman for his final year of high school.  Jonathan had been living with his parents in Arizona, but depending on which story you choose to believe, his parents were divorcing, or his sister developed a brain tumor and so his parents needed to devote most of their time to her.

Jonathan was not an easy teenager to deal with.  He used drugs, not just marijuana but something hallucinogenic that required hospitalization at one point.).  He brought people his grandparents didn’t know, and doubtless would not have approved of, into their home, without their permission.  He didn’t respect or listen to his grandmother.  He swore at her.  He demanded that she give him money. He had an awful temper, and hit or kicked  things.  In short, he was completely unmanageable.

She bought a gun, a Glock, because she thought Jonathan’s friends might be dangerous.

A few days before his death, Jonathan had failed a drug test that put him in violation of his probation.  He wanted to get away, out of Michigan before he could be jailed, and he wanted his grandmother’s car and money to carry out his escape plan.

Sandra Layne said he hit her during a huge argument about money, and that she was afraid of him.

She sounds quite sympathetic, doesn’t she?  If you had been on her jury, would you have believed her claim of self-defense and acquitted her?  Would you at least have reduced her guilt from first degree murder charge to manslaughter?

Let’s look at a few more facts about this situation.  Maybe that will help you decide.

Layne fired 9 shots (from a Glock 9mm) and hit him 5 times.  Better accuracy than many people in that kind of situation would have had, you might be saying.  But what if I add the fact that the 911 call showed that those 10 shots took place over 6-minutes? Yes, 6 minutes, not 6 seconds.

Layne shot him, and walked out of that room.  Apparently he called 911, kept the 911 operator on, then she returned to the room where he was lying on the floor, and shot him again.  If a fight had been continuing, the 911 call would have picked it up.  The 911 call did pick up Jonathan saying, "My grandma shot me. I'm going to die.”  A few minutes later he said,  “Help. I got shot again."

Another telling point, Layne never asked for an ambulance for her grandson.  

Layne was examined at a hospital right after the incident, but did not appear to be injured in any way, undermining her claim that Jonathan had hit her.

Does that change your opinion of what the verdict should have been?  The jury in this case had the 911 tape in the jury room, and played it over and over.  It helped them reach their verdict: guilty (first-degree murder).  That poor woman will spend at least 14 years in prison, if she lives long enough to complete her sentence.

Everyone suffers in a tragic situation like this.

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Photo Credit: West Bloomfield Township Police Dept.