A Riverside juvenile court judge decided that a grade-schooler knew what he was doing when he fatally shot his father, neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall, when he was 10, and held the now 12-year-old boy criminally responsible. Jeff hall was a regional leader of the National Socialist Movement.
Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard cited the boy’s statement that “if you want to kill someone, you shoot them in the head,” among others, when she rendered her decision in court Monday. Leonard heard the case without a jury.The defense had argued that he shouldn’t be held responsible due to an abusive upbringing.
Deputy Public Defender Matthew Hardy said his client grew up in an abusive and violent environment and learned it was acceptable to kill people who were a threat. Hardy contended the boy thought if he shot his dad, the violence would end.
Prosecutors argued that the child killed his father to keep him from splitting up with his stepmother, who at first said she had killed Hall but then quickly retracted her statement. She was not charged in the case.
Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Soccio was somber after the hearing, saying he would have been concerned if the defendant had been released, but that mostly what he felt was sad.
“This isn’t the kind [of case] where you come out and cheer, ‘Hey, great verdict,’” he told reporters afterward.
The judge determined the crime did not rise to the standard of first-degree murder, which requires premeditation, but rather the lesser second-degree murder. But that distinction is unlikely to have an impact on where he will be housed, both the prosecution and defense said. Under state law, he could be held as a ward of the state until the age of 23.
Leonard will announce that decision on Feb. 15. Soccio said the boy, who’s name KPCC is not printing due to his age and the circumstances of the case, will likely end up in a locked facility. The boy did not testify at trial.
Hardy said he wants to reach an agreement with Soccio for a placement that includes treatment. He said he’d prefer an alternative placement such as a locked group home out-of-state.
“I’d like to see him go where rich kids go,” Hardy said. “They go to these places where there’s all the treatment and support in the world. I just don’t want him warehoused somewhere. And that’s about the best thing that will happen to him if he goes to DJJ.”
It’s been reported in the news media that the 12-year-old has already been informally rejected from several placement facilities due to his violent history.
Soccio did not address a possible agreement in his comments, but did say the boy is unlikely to be sent somewhere he’ll “get the help he needs.”
The boy’s younger sister bolstered the prosecution’s case by saying her elder sibling plotted the shooting days in advance.
Hall was shot at point-blank range with a .357 Magnum while he slept on a sofa in the family home.
The boy said in a videotaped interview with police that he didn’t think he’d get in trouble because he saw an episode of “Criminal Minds” in which a child killed an abusive father and wasn’t arrested.
Prosecutors maintained Hall’s white supremacist beliefs had nothing to do with the crime. They noted the boy had a history of violence that dated back to kindergarten when he stabbed a teacher with a pencil.
This story has been updated.