A boy who shot his neo-Nazi father in the head at age 10 has been found guilty of murder by a California judge.
Joseph Hall, now 12, was convicted of killing Jeff Hall, 32, despite arguments from defense lawyers that the child was beaten and kicked by his abusive father and that he was too young to understand what he was doing.
Riverside Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard found that Joseph was legally responsible for the death, but opted for a lesser charge of second-degree murder – indicating that the killing was not premeditated as prosecutors had argued.
Prosecutors say the boy has a history of violent behavior – choking his teacher, stabbing his sister and clubbing his uncle – and that he planned the killing because he didn’t like his father.
He will be sentenced on February 15 and could remain in custody until he is 23 – the maximum possible sentence for a juvenile his age.
Joseph could be sent to a juvenile detention lockup or could spend the time in a private care facility that would provide treatment, therapy and schooling.
Defense lawyers have argued for the latter sentence.
Jeff Hall was the regional leader of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group and was an outspoken white supremacist. Prosecutors have urged Judge Leonard to ignore Hall’s racist affiliations – arguing that they have no bearing on the murder trial.
Joseph’s younger sister bolstered the prosecution’s case last week by testifying that the boy plotted the shooting days in advance.
‘This boy laid awake and thought about shooting his father. He told investigators that he “thought this thing between father and son had to end,”‘ Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Mike Soccio said last week, according to the Desert Sun.
Prosecutors say he waited until Jeff Hall passed out drunk on the couch after an argument with his wife and then retrieved his father’s Rossi .357 magnum revolver and shot him in the head at point-blank range.
Prosecutors argue that the child killed his father to keep him from splitting up with his stepmother, who at first said she had killed 32-year-old Jeff Hall but then quickly retracted her statement. She was not charged in the case.
Joseph admitted to the shooting and told police that he didn’t think he would be prosecuted because he saw an episode of the TV crime drama criminal minds where a young boy killed his abusive father and wasn’t arrested.
‘A bad father did something to his kids and the kid did the exact same thing I did – he shot him,’ the boy said in a video recording of an interview played at the trial.
‘He told the truth and wasn’t arrested and the cops believed him. He wasn’t in trouble or anything. I thought maybe the exact same thing would happen to me,’ Joseph said.
Defense attorney Matthew Hardy said his client grew up in an abusive and violent environment and learned it was acceptable to kill people who were a threat. Hardy contended the boy thought if he shot his dad, the violence would end.
‘He was kept in an environment where he was conditioned to use violence. He learned that from his dad,’ Hardy told the judge.
He said the California Department of Public Social Services received 20 complaints about the Hall household over seven years, but never took action.
Joseph was also permanently expelled from elementary school.
‘Society told him, “You’re all alone, kid,”‘ Hardy told the judge.
Prosecutors, though, say Joseph – even by age 10 – had a history of using violence to get what he wanted.
He choked a teacher, stabbed his little sister and hit his uncle in the head with a club, according to authorities.