Michigan Granny Guilty of Murdering Grandson
A 75-year-old Michigan woman is guilty in last year’s shooting death of her grandson, a jury ruled Tuesday.
Sandra Layne was convicted of the second-degree murder of Jonathan Hoffman, 17, as the jury rejected her argument that she was acting in self-defense.
In a particular grisly scene, the jury listened to the 911 call during which Hoffman can be heard pleading, “My grandma shot me. I’m going to die. Help. I got shot again.” Prosecutors said that the tape was key in showing that the self defense claim was inappropriate.
Hoffman had been living with his grandmother in the Detroit area for about a year in order to finish school after his parents had moved to Arizona. He had a history of drug use and may have been facing a probation violation after a positive test, Layne testified. She also said that he had been violent in the past and broken things in the house.
Immediately prior to the shooting, she claimed that the teenager kicked and punched her while demanding that she give him $2,000 and a car so he could flee the state. In response, she fired her Glock a total of 10 times, hitting her grandson with six rounds.
How To Claim Self Defense
Michigan law spells out what has to be shown for a successful self defense claim. “Her lawyers would have to have proven that she honestly and reasonably believed that she had to use force to prevent her imminent death, or imminent great bodily harm to herself or to another individual,” says Todd L. Levitt, a criminal defense attorney in Michigan with the Levitt Law Firm. Deadly force can also legally be used to prevent sexual assault.
“You can only use the amount of force that you’re faced with,” Levitt says. “You can’t take a baseball bat to a fist fight, and you can’t take a gun to a fist fight.”
In this situation, Layne was the only living witness to the shooting, so she would have had to convince the jury that her story was credible. Cases can be bolstered if there is a history of threats or violence made by the shooting victim, or if the shooter had a restraining order out against the victim, Levitt points out.
“It’s more difficult to prove a case where there’s no history of violence between two individuals and an argument takes place,” he says. “An argument does not justify using deadly force.”
Duty To Retreat
The prosecution argued that Layne confessed to police without mentioning that she had been attacked. They also noted that she had left the room after initially shooting Hoffman before coming back to shoot him again. Layne claimed that he tried to take the gun from her when she returned to the room.
A 75-year-old woman might be able to argue that she feared deadly harm from an unarmed teenager due to a large disparity in size and strength, but the fact that she left, came back and shot again probably sunk her credibility. “At that point, she wounds him and he’s momentarily disabled,” Levitt says. “The threat is no longer there. At that time, she should have retreated.”
The verdict probably means Layne’s sentence will be for a minimum of 14 years in prison.
“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,” the boy’s father said to reporters.
“It’s really hard to comprehend that your own mother could do something like this to your own child,” Hoffman’s mother said, calling her mother a “monster.” “I just know that my son is in heaven, and that’s a place that she’ll never see.”