A 12-year-old was found guilty of murder when the judge ruled that the boy, who killed his father at the age of 10, knew what he was doing when he pulled the trigger.
Sandy Huffaker / AP / File
A 12-year-old boy was found guilty of murder in a Los Angeles courtroom today. Though he was only 10 when he fatally shot his white supremacist father, the judge said that the child knew what he did was wrong, and is thus guilty of second-degree murder.
Riverside Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard weighed the severity of the crime against the effects of the abuse and neglect inflicted on the now-12-year-old boy by his father, Jeff Hall, a regional leader of the National Socialist Movement, who was 32 when he died. The boy, who is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 15, could be incarcerated until he is 23.
During the trial, the slender 12-year-old boy in big eyeglasses appeared to listen intently as lawyers argued over whether he knew the difference between right and wrong when he shot his sleeping neo-Nazi father to death. The boy is not being identified by The Associated Press because of his age.
In arguments in juvenile court, the prosecution contended the boy knew what he was doing, premeditated the killing and should be found guilty of murder. The defense argued he was damaged by a violent home and was seeking to protect himself and his family.
Defense attorney Matthew Hardy began his argument by showing a photograph of the boy at a neo-Nazi gathering with someone in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe along with two other people. All are giving Nazi salutes and the boy is holding a toy gun.
"Welcome to his life," the defense attorney said.
Hardy said the father, 32-year-old Jeff Hall, had threatened to burn down the family home while the family slept, slapped and whipped the boy, taught him to shoot and that violence was an appropriate response to problems.
"At the time he pulled the trigger — and he did — did he know what he was doing was wrong? No," Hardy said.
The attorney quoted the boy as saying, "'I thought if I shoot him maybe he won't be able to hurt us.'"
Hardy also said the boy blamed his stepmother for urging him to kill his father.
"He said, 'She told me if I shot him all the violence would stop,'" Hardy said.