A boy accused of murdering his neo-Nazi father when he was 10 years old went on trial in California on Tuesday, with prosecutors portraying the child as violent and troubled and a defense lawyer saying he acted to protect his family.
Both sides agree that Joseph Hall, now 12, shot his father, Jeffrey Hall, at near point-blank range on May 1, 2011. He is being tried in juvenile court and could be sent to a juvenile facility until age 23.
The closely watched case in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, has drawn attention for Jeffrey Hall’s neo-Nazi associations and for the unusual circumstance of such a young child accused of murdering a parent.
Because Joseph Hall is a juvenile, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard, who is conducting the two-week trial, will not decide guilt or innocence, but make a finding of whether the allegations are true - a decision that hinges on the boy’s understanding of right and wrong at the time.
“Joseph has had trouble all of his life. He’s attacked teachers, tried to stab them and strangle them with cords. Every institution expelled him,” Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Michael Soccio told the court in opening remarks.
“Jeffrey Hall was given full custody of Joseph and his sister. He tried to help him. His son had these issues long before he was a Nazi and (was) just a plumber. (Joseph) has ADD (attention deficit disorder), impulsivity and a violent streak,” Soccio said.
The prosecutor, who displayed grisly photographs of the slain man showing a bullet wound above his left ear, said Joseph Hall knew that the gun was dangerous and had planned the crime, telling his sister about his intentions the day before.
“He understood that if he shot someone in the head, they’d be gone,” Soccio said. “He knew what he did was wrong. He knew full well what that meant.”