A 12-year-old boy was found guilty of second-degree murder Monday for killing his father, a neo-Nazi. The California boy was 10 years old at the time, and, although he was abused, knew his actions were wrong, the judge ruled.
The boy, whose first name is being withheld because of his age, killed his father, Jeff Hall, 32, following years of abuse and neglect, reports The Associated Press. The boy was convicted of second-degree murder and using a gun to commit a felony, reports the Los Angeles Times. He was charged as a juvenile and could serve his sentence at a juvenile detention center until he turns 23.
Hall was a regional leader of the National Socialist Movement, a white supremacist group whose flag includes a Nazi swastika. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard heard the case without a jury.
At the age of 10, the boy decided to kill his father and waited until Hall was asleep on the couch on May 1, 2011, before using the .357 Magnum revolver his father owned. According to Leonard, “He thought about the idea and shot his father,” reports AP.
The case was not a simple murder, as Leonard had to consider Hall’s relationship with his son as well as his NSM membership. The child’s stepmother testified that Hall was physically and verbally abusive to the boy. Leonard also heard testimony about Hall’s divorce from the child’s mother, which included accusations of abuse by both parents, notes AP.
The boy’s defense attorney, Matthew Hardy, constructed a self-defense argument, citing the years of physical and verbal abuse at the hands of his father. According to the AP, Hardy argued that the years of violence from Hall could have taught the child that such behavior was acceptable, and that killing Hall would be a solution to ending the abuse.
Leonard also noted the boy had a prior history of acting out violently and that Hall was raising his son to eventually become a NSM member. The judge said, “This is not a naive little boy unaware of the ways of the world,” reports LA Times. The boy was expelled from eight schools due to violent behavior, including one incident where he choked a teacher with a telephone cord.
Hardy plans on appealing the decision, believing the boy did not know the full extent of his actions. Hardy cites the conflicting reports the boy gave to police officers, one of which included the boy’s testimony that his father would return home after being shot and would recover, reports LA Times.
The boy will be sentenced Feb. 15, and the main concern is finding an institution which will provide the child an opportunity to develop normally. Hardy does not want the child to simply be placed in a state facility, saying “He's focused on trying to get it over with. Go someplace where he can get some help. He wants to be a normal kid and wants to have a normal life,” reports AP.