A California boy, now 12, has been convicted of second-degree
murder for shooting dead his neo-Nazi father, following a
juvenile trial that centered on allegations of abuse and the
young defendant's grasp of right and wrong.
The verdict by Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard means that
Joseph Hall, who was 10 years old when he shot his father to
death at point-blank range in May of 2011, could be sentenced
to a juvenile facility until he is 23.
He faces a disposition hearing on February 15 to determine
where he will be placed.
Jeffrey Hall, 32, was a regional director of the National
Socialist Movement, a white separatist group. The case in
Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, has made headlines
because of his neo-Nazi ties and the rarity of a parent being
killed by a child so young.
In rendering her verdict, Leonard said she weighed evidence
that the boy had suffered a lifetime of abuse. "He was abused
and neglected from the womb," she said. "The NSM taught him
things a minor should not know about."
The judge, who heard the case without a jury, said she had
determined that at the time of the shooting Joseph Hall
understood that what he was doing was wrong, a key finding in
the juvenile court case.
"The minor chose his own way and made his own rules," she
said. The boy showed little reaction as the verdict was read.
Because Hall is a minor, the purpose of the trial was not to
determine guilt or innocence, but whether allegations about
his motives and grasp of right and wrong were true.
'NO HAPPY ENDING'
Defense attorneys had argued during the trial that Hall
should not be held responsible for his actions because a
lifetime of abuse and his father's neo-Nazi activities had
conditioned him to violence.
But prosecutors said that the boy, who lived with four
siblings, shot his father because he thought he was planning
to divorce his stepmother and break up the family. Hall shot
his father with the man's own gun.
"This was a very difficult case to prosecute. I have very
mixed emotions. There's a lot of sadness in it. Joseph is a
little boy and his life has been very very sad," Riverside
County Deputy District Attorney Michael Soccio said.
"My position is that the NSM had very little if anything to
do with the killing," Soccio said. "The question is, what do
we do now?"
Hall's lead defense attorney, Matthew Hardy, called the
second-degree verdict a "tragedy" and said it could lead to
his client's incarceration in a California Division of
Juvenile Justice facility with the "worst of the worst" young
"If we create a monster, I'm not saying Joseph is a monster
but as a society if we create a monster we have some
responsibility for what that monster does," he said, adding
that he was considering an appeal of the verdict.
Experts say the murder of a parent by a child so young is
Kathleen Heide, a criminologist who specializes in juvenile
offenders, has told Reuters that 8,000 murder victims over
the past 32 years were slain by their offspring, but only 16
of those crimes were committed by defendants aged 10 or
"There can be no happy ending for our family," Hall's
grandmother, JoAnn Becker, told Reuters following the