Jeff Hall holds a Neo Nazi flag while standing at Sycamore Highlands Park near his home in Riverside, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 22, 2010. Seven months later, Hall was shot to death by his 10-year-old son Joseph. The boy's murder trial before a Riverside County Juvenile Court judge began today. Photo credit: Sandy Huffaker/AP
The juvenile court murder trial of a young boy accused of shooting his neo-Nazi father to death is underway in Riverside.
Riverside County prosecutors say Joseph Hall, who's now 12, went downstairs in his parent's home in May 2011 and used a revolver to fire one shot into his father's head behind his left ear, killing him.
The father, Jeff Hall, was a well-known leader of a Southern California neo-Nazi group.
The prosecution is arguing that despite his age, the boy carefully planned to kill his father and was waiting for the right time to strike.
Chief Depty District Attorney Michael Soccio said the boy told police that he wanted to stop his father from physically abusing him, his stepmom Krista McCrary and his younger siblings, and that he feared his parents would divorce and his dad would have custody of him and his sister.
Soccio said Jeff Hall, 32, tried his best to raise an emotionally unstable child prone to violent outbursts who once tried to strangle a teacher with a telephone cord.
Soccio said the boy did not kill has dad because he was a white supremacist, and that it didn’t matter if Hall was a neo-Nazi or a member of the Peace and Freedom Party. His son was determined to kill him, said the prosecutor.
"You'll learn that (the child) would have shot his father even if he'd been a member of the Peace and Freedom Party. It made no difference," Soccio said, before showing the court photos of Hall playing tea party with his young children. "They lived a relatively normal life."
In his opening statement, public defender Matthew Hardy said Joseph Hall told an investigator after the shooting that “my mom (McCrary) told me to kill him; my mom gave me the gun."
Hardy claimed McCrary, who is expected to testify, goaded the boy into killing Hall because Hall was planning to leave her for another woman. Hall sent her text messages on the night he was shot saying he would divorce her, Hardy said.
McCrary sat in on the child's interviews with police and psychiatrists after the shooting, he said, and she lied to investigators.
In court, the boy with light brown hair sat quietly to his attorney and wore a purple polo shirt and glasses. He showed little emotion when the prosecution flashed photos through a projector of his blood-spattered father, and he appeared to be taking notes in a spiral-bound notebook. On several occasions, he asked his attorney how to spell the name of a witness taking the stand.
If a judge finds the boy murdered Hall , he could be held in state custody until he is 23 years old.
The state currently houses fewer than 900 juveniles.