PONTIAC, Mich. As a 17-year-old who had been shot by his grandmother pleaded with a 911 dispatcher to send help, the 75-year-old woman shot him again, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday in suburban Detroit.
Just as Jonathan Hoffman "thought he was safe ... Sandra Layne walks up and shoots him again. This time in the stomach," Paul Walton, Oakland County's chief assistant prosecutor, said during his opening statement in Layne's first-degree murder trial.
Defense attorney Jerome Sabbota countered that the diminutive Layne feared for her safety during the fatal May 18, 2012, confrontation in the West Bloomfield Township condo Hoffman shared with his grandparents.
An autopsy revealed Hoffman was shot three times in the chest, once in the abdomen and once in his left arm. Tests showed the teen had traces of synthetic marijuana in his body.
Officers had been called to the home northwest of Detroit about two months earlier, when Layne told police she was having a difficult time because her grandson was very upset and yelling. No arrests were made that day.
Four days before that, the alternative high school senior was pulled over in nearby Farmington Hills and ticketed for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He later received a 93-day suspended sentence and was placed on 12 months' probation.
Layne is "not a murderer," Sabbota told jurors Tuesday. "She was afraid. She felt she had no choice. Why else would she shoot him? This is a tragic case."
Hoffman was living with his grandmother while his mother and father were divorcing and living outside Michigan.
"He was a troubled teen, her favorite grandson, and she took him in," Sabbota said.
In Hoffman's 911 call played during Layne's preliminary examination last summer, the teen yelled into a cellphone: "I've just been shot. My grandma shot me. I'm going to die. Help."
A few minutes later, he tells the operator: "I got shot, shot again. Please help. Help," before his voice trails off and a woman's shouts are heard in the background.
An officer testified at Layne's preliminary examination that when police arrived, she walked out of her home with her hands up and screamed "I murdered my grandson."
A Glock 9mm semiautomatic handgun was found just inside the front door. Nine spent cartridge cases also were found in the house.
Sabbota said Layne is expected to take the stand during the trial.