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Grandmother Faces 12-20 Years for Killing; Psychiatrist Says Arias Lied to Him; Assad Accused of Using Chemical Weapons; Accused Baby Slapper in Court; 911 Call of UCF Roommate.

Aired March 20, 2013 - 11:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We had just reported a short time ago of a possible shooter at a Minnesota middle school. It turned out to be a hoax. A 911 call led to a lockdown at the New Prague Middle School and police are on the scene, but they have found no sign of any shooter nor any trouble, according to our affiliate stations. Always good to be able to report that, despite it being a hoax.

Also, this 75-year-old Michigan woman we told you about yesterday, who shot and killed her 17-year-old grandson, supposedly in self-defense, was convicted, and just a few hours after we brought this story to you. The conviction, second-degree murder. Sandra Layne faces 12 to 20 years in prison for the killing of Jonathan Hoffman. She shot him six times over the course of six minutes. She fired 10 times. It all happened in the home that they shared near Detroit. She testified that her grandson was high on drugs and was attacking her when she went for her gun. But then the jurors heard Jonathan's phone call to 911.


911 OPERATOR: 911, what's your emergency?


911 OPERATOR: What?

HOFFMAN: I've just been shot.

911 OPERATOR: Where are you at? OK, how did you get shot?

HOFFMAN: My grandma shot me.

911 OPERATOR: My grandma or grandpa shot you?

HOFFMAN: My grandma. I'm going to die.


BANFIELD: 2.5 minutes later, while he was still on the phone, Hoffman was shot again. Sandra Layne will be sentenced on April 18th and she is not free on bond between now and then.

You know, this has been the theme of the Jodi Arias case -- lies, just so many lies. Yesterday, the psychologist, who was hired by the defense, testified that the admitted killer even lied to him when she was being tested for PTSD. Have a listen.


JUAN MARTINEZ, PROSECUTOR: Why are you writing down untruths?

DR. RICHARD SAMUELS, PSYCHOLOGIST: Because this was her perception at the time. This was her story, what went on, at the time. The test was administered. These were her response.

MARTINEZ: But you used this -- knowing -- you just said, knowing that this was a lie, you used it and then concluded that those scores on that PTSD confirm the presence of PTSD, even though you just now told us that this is based on a lie.

SAMUELS: Perhaps I should have readministered that test.


BANFIELD: Perhaps.

Joining us now is Jean Casarez, who is a correspondent for "In Session" on TruTV, who gets to watch as all of this unfolds and gets to see the looks on the faces of the jurors. Criminal defense attorney, Jose Baez also joins us live, and Lisa Bloom, a legal analyst for

All right, I want to start with you, Jean Casarez, and I'm going to pose these questions to all three of our panel.

But it has to do with just how much this jury can take before they say, I'm done, or if they will say it. And I'm going to start with all of the things they've had to digest from the beginning. Number one, she doesn't remember so much of the actual killing. She just wants them to believe it was PTSD or some kind of a condition, that she blacked out in her rage. She stayed with this man, a monster, because she testified he abuses her all the time, but she stays with him. She rents a car from a location far away there her house and puts gas cans in the back of it, filled with gas, so that she doesn't run out of gas while driving through the night, to go on a trip, where she kills him. I will continue, but I'm going to stop there.

Jean Casarez, by that point in the trial, was the jury shaking their heads?

JEAN CASAREZ, CORRESPONDENT, IN SESSION: You know, I find this jury very, very focused, very intent, wanting to hear the other side, because there are arguments to everything you're saying right there, with on the other side. Their questions definitely have been posed to the fact that they don't believe her. And we're just about to get to jury questions with Dr. Richard Samuels. But this jury still engaged. They are very engaged. They're a good jury.

BANFIELD: OK. I want to go to my next list, then, because the requests for additional benefit of the doubt just keep coming. Number one, before she even got into this courtroom, she was at least three times a liar to law enforcement officials about what happened at Travis Alexander's home. And she would change her story upon learning they knew more than she thought they knew. Number two, she contends that she shot him first, and then forgets all about the rageful stabbing. The M.E. says it was more likely that he was stabbed first and then finished off with a shot. And then she reports that an old boyfriend, Bobby, was reported to the police when he was mean to her, but Travis, who she contends was always mean to her, never reported to the police.

Jose Baez, I want you to step in now, because we are now asking for additional benefits of the doubt from these jurors. You had a client, Casey Anthony, who got a lot of benefit of the doubt from jurors. Where do you see, when we get to this point in the trial, it going with jurors?

JOSE BAEZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, what I think needs to be explained throughout the course of this case is that everybody lies when confronted by the police. I would say a good majority of people who are questioned, as a suspect, by the police, in a case, their first initial reaction is to try and downplay their role. And I can tell you, from tons of experience, a majority of people, when confronted, they lie.

So what needs to be done in this case, really, after looking throughout this case, I think a lot more focus needs to be presented towards the physical evidence. I think that's where the defense should go in this case, because after looking at some of the physical evidence, I think she has some valid arguments, some that might support what she's saying. Because -- she has no credibility at this point, so if she can say something that's corroborated by some physical evidence --


BAEZ: -- I think that might help her.

BANFIELD: So let me go to the physical evidence. I think that's a great point. And you're right. A lot of people lie to the police. That was just one part of this every-growing list.

Here comes list number three. Number one, what's missing from her journal? Any mention ever that the man she says she fought for her life against and killed in self-defense ever abused her, ever treated her badly, ever treated her like the dirty tissue she felt like? It's not anywhere in her private thoughts in her journal. Number two, the clothes she was wearing that night, the gun that was used that night, the knife that was used that night, gone. All missing. No memory of where they want. The camera in the washing machine, no memory of why it's in the washing machine. And then, perhaps even more chilling, to some of these jurors, because they asked about it, she left the death scene and she went on and had a date with another man, who said she was completely normal.

Lisa Bloom, these are pieces of physical evidence with witnesses and, again, Jodi had an answer for everything. How much benefit of the doubt can this jury give her after that list? LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm going to take issue with Jose Baez. Everybody does not lie talking to the police. Everybody who has something to hide may lie to the police. But most of us, if we're questioned by the police, for example, as a witness to a crime -- lied to the police in many cases. And Casey Anthony was convicted of lying. So I don't want to get the idea out there that it's OK to lie to the police. It certainly isn't.

Look, I think Jodi Arias is going down. I think the jury is going to see through all of these lies. Ashleigh, you have a terrific list that you've been putting up.

And her own defense expert clearly comes across like a hired gun who will say anything and do anything, administers tests that make no sense, that aren't valid in court. His testimony is largely based on her lies. And I think the jury will see through all of that.

BANFIELD: All right, Jean Casarez, Jose Baez, and Lisa Bloom, thank you all for your input.

Dr. Samuels, that expert, will be back on the stand today, but the jury gets to ask the questions. And their questions have been great. They've been terrific so far. Hundreds, hundreds of them.

You can watch the Jodi Arias trial. The trial will resume this afternoon on HLN, our sister network, and also we stream it on

Both sides accusing the other of using chemical weapons in Syria. Big problem or more propaganda? That's coming up next.


BANFIELD: Dictators don't often shy away from using things like chemical weapons against their own people or enemies. The two most infamous that come to mind immediately, Saddam Hussein, perhaps, Hitler. And now there are unconfirmed reports that Syria's Bashar al Assad has used chemical weapons against the Syrian rebels. He is denying that charge. In fact, he's accusing those rebels of using chemical weapons of their own. United States officials say the Obama administration is looking into all of these claims, but has not yet reached a conclusion.

Our Wolf Blitzer joins us live now from Washington with his take.

Wolf, the president has said all along that a chemical attack could cross that red line that would actually bring the United States into a potential attack on Syria. Do we have any specifics of what exactly that means? A body count, a level of evidence, a timeline, the length of time used? Are there any specifics? Because we've just been trying to wrap up war for the last 10 years.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: I think that when the president says it would be a game changer if the Syrian military, Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people, I assume it means the United States would try to do something about that. Either unilaterally, or put together some sort of coalition to go in, destroy those chemical weapons stockpiles if they can. They can do it with drones or, if they can do it from the air, that's one thing. They probably can't, it would probably require some special operations forces to go if there.

U.S. intelligence knows where these stockpiles are. Their big concern is they get into the wrong hands, whether they get into hands of terrorists, al Qaeda sympathizers, Hezbollah, which is a big part of Lebanon right now. There's major concerns.

And the Israelis are deeply concerned about that as well. You hear these ominous statements coming out of Israel about chemical weapons being used by the wrong folks, if you will, in Syria.

So this is a huge issue right now, and it's right at the top of the agenda, when the president meets in the next few hours with the Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu.

BANFIELD: And when you hear the House Intelligence chair say to you that there's a high probability that Syria used these weapons, it makes everybody stand up.

I know you've got a busy show. You'll be on this afternoon. "Situation Room" at 5:00 p.m. eastern. Probably, that topic and more with everything that's happening with the president today.

Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

BANFIELD: A crying baby on an airplane. We've all been through it. We've all either had one or we've heard one, and it does make us uncomfortable, in some way. But one man decided to go above what anyone would consider acceptable. And you will not believe what he did or what he said to a baby, coming up.


The Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Ft. Hood, Texas, back in 2009, is expected back in court today. It's just a pretrial hearing at this point, but there is a chance that Major Nidal Hasan could be allowed to change his plea to guilty if he's able to reach a plea deal. It would spare him the death penalty, but likely not a life in prison.

Hey, I want you to take a look at a cute, cute little face.



JONAH BENNETT, 1 YEAR OLD: Twinkle, twinkle.


BANFIELD: Twinkle, twinkle. That's Jonah Bennett, not even 2. Adorable. So can you imagine when his mother says that a man on an airplane reached out and slapped him on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta last month, all because he was crying as they were descending? All babies cry as the cabin pressure changes. But it didn't end there. Jessica Bennett said that man called her baby the "N" word. Joe Rickey Hundley is charged now with assault --


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- -- here at this federal courthouse later this afternoon where, if convicted, he faces up to one year in prison, a fine or both -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: And he was president of that company. No small job. I mean, this guy is a bright man.

I just have a question for you with regard to the jurisdiction you're in. I'm not sure what simple assault can get you, but just how bad could it be if he's convicted of this?

VALENCIA: If convicted, a simple assault charge against a minor 16 years old or younger, if convicted of this charge, he faces up to a year. We're not quite clear on the fine or how much he faces. But it's worth pointing out, and all we know is what court records tell us, but back in 2007, Hundley pled guilty to a simple assault charge in Virginia after a fight with his girlfriend -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: All right. OK. Well, you know what, if there is a jury, they may not hear about that. That's always an issue whether it's prejudicial or probative.

Nick, thank you. A remarkable case. Let us know what happens.

Nick Valencia live for us in Georgia.

We'll be back right after this.


BANFIELD: A tragedy in the making. A backpack full of bombs, a thousand rounds of ammunition and a handwritten timeline for an attack all found in the dorm room of a former University of Central Florida student. That student who took his own life this week before anything else could happen. And now we're hearing from that student's roommate, a roommate who called 911 for help.

Ed Lavandera has more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fire alarm is blaring as the roommate, Arabo Babahkani, calls 911. His roommate and would-be killer, James Oliver Seevakumaran, has just pointed a gun right at him.


ARABO BABAKHANI: ROOMMATE OF JAMES OLIVER SEEVAKUMARAN: My roommate just pulled a fire alarm and he's got a gun out.

911 OPERATOR: All right, where are you at?

BABAKHANI: I'm in the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

The fire alarm went off. I opened the door to see what was going on and he's there with sort of like gun, like large assault gun. I don't know if it's a real gun. I don't know what it is. But I just saw it and I slammed my door shut and locked it.

911 OPERATOR: All right. Are you in your room now? Secured in your room?

BABAKHANI: Yes. Yes, I'm in the bathroom. I was definitely scared, but I was scared but calm. I was just taking cover like in my room behind objects.


BABAKHANI: I was definitely scared, but was scared but calm. I was just taking cover like in my room behind objects.

LAVANDERA: Campus police release this dramatic helmet-camera video of officers making their way inside the gunman's dorm room. This might be disturbing for some to watch, but this is the moment police find the 30-year-old lying dead on the floor.

They also found that he apparently was planning a massacre with an arsenal of weapons and explosives.

RICHARD BEARY, CHIEF, UCF POLICE: I don't think that you acquire 210- round magazines and numerous .22 capacity magazines and purchase a thousand rounds of ammunition and that you purchase the .45 ammunition -- I don't think you just do that as a joke.

LAVANDERA: Investigators say they also found a bizarre handwritten timeline for the attack. In Seevakumaran's words, he would visit this bar called the Mad Hatter, get drunk and go back to his dorm, take a shower, shave up, and then get equipped, scratching off items as he went down the list. The last item read "Good luck and give them hell."

The would-be killer's roommate lived with him for the last seven months.

BABAHKANI: I've tried to get to know him and stuff, but, no, we're not friends. He was just very anti-social. He doesn't want to know me. He doesn't want to make friends. He just keeps to himself.

LAVANDERA: Police say Seevakumaran was not targeting anyone specifically but his roommate suggests he killed himself because he felt cornered.

BABAHKANI: I knew he was having money problems because of the whole process with him getting evicted from the apartment. And he was having trouble at work too. I think his hours got cut recently. And he just -- he wasn't making a lot of money.


BANFIELD: That was our Ed Lavandera, reporting from Orlando.

And it's good that we didn't bring you the story of another mass shooting. Although, last summer, we sure did. And now, a really inspiring attitude from a guy who was shot 18 times during that shooting. Ryan Lumba was at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the night it happened. And here's what he has to say about what should happen to the accused mass killer, James Holmes.


RYAN LUMBA, THEATER SHOOTING SURVIVOR: He did do something pretty horrific. Like he did something I would say evil. But death penalty, it would take lots of time. And how I see it a lot of people involved and in the community of Aurora, we're just trying to get over it. And I think a life sentence would just be a little bit easy on everybody.


BANFIELD: Here he is getting a visit from President Obama last year in the hospital bed. The 18-year-old says he just wants to move forward.

Thanks for watching everyone. Nice to be with you.

AROUND THE WORLD is next after this very quick break.