A California judge was expected to render a verdict on Monday in the trial of a 12-year-old boy accused of murdering his neo-Nazi father, a case that focused on accusations of abuse and the pre-teen defendant’s grasp of right and wrong at such a young age.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers both rested their cases last week in the Riverside County Superior Court trial of Joseph Hall for the May, 2011 death of his father Jeffrey, a regional director of the National Socialist Movement.
Judge Jean Leonard, who is hearing the closely-watched juvenile court case without a jury, has told attorneys that she would issue her verdict on Monday morning.
The defense concedes that Hall, who was then 10 years old, shot his father at point-blank range while the older man was sleeping, but argues that the boy should not be held criminally responsible.
The case in Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, has made headlines because of Jeffrey Hall’s neo-Nazi associations and the rarity of a parent being killed by a child so young.
Kathleen Heide, a criminologist who specializes in juvenile offenders, has said 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 younger.
Because Hall is a minor, the purpose of the trial is not to determine guilt or innocence, but whether certain allegations about his motives are true. If he is found responsible for the crime, he could be sent to a juvenile facility until he is 23.
During his closing argument on Wednesday, lead defense attorney Matthew Hardy - who earlier in the week withdrew his young client’s plea of not guilty by reason of insanity - urged the judge to convict Hall of a lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter.
Hardy said Hall had killed him to end years of physical abuse.
But Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Michael Soccio said during his closing arguments that Jeffrey Hall, 32, was a loving father despite his neo-Nazi ties and said the abuse accusations were a diversion.
“Joseph was not raised in the home described by the defense here,” Soccio said. “It doesn’t exist. It’s fiction, a smoke screen, a red herring.”
A psychologist called as a witness by the defense testified during the trial that Hall had been conditioned to violence by years of physical, emotional and likely sexual abuse.
But prosecutors say Hall, who lived with four siblings, shot his father because he thought he was planning to divorce his stepmother, Krista McCary. Prosecutors said the boy was close to McCary and considered her his true mother.