Riverside judge to decide fate of 13-year-old who murdered neo-Nazi father

Neo Nazi Candidates

Sandy Huffaker/AP

Jeff Hall holds a Neo Nazi flag while standing at Sycamore Highlands Park near his home in Riverside, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 22, 2010.

A hearing is under way in Riverside juvenile court where a judge will decide the sentence of a 13-year-old boy who fatally shot his neo-Nazi father as he lay sleeping.

The hearing is expected to take several days as the prosecution and the defense argue for the appropriate punishment.

KPCC has decided not to print the boy’s name due to his age and the circumstances of the case.

In January, Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard decided the grade-schooler knew what he was doing when he fatally shot his father, neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall, when he was 10. The decision held the now 13-year-old boy criminally responsible for the murder of Hall, who was a regional leader of the National Socialist Movement.

In March, Leonard granted the defense's request for a contested disposition hearing, which will allow Deputy Public Defender Matthew Hardy to call expert witnesses. Hardy hopes that it will bolster the chances of getting the boy sentenced to an alternative placement facility,  where he may have greater access to mental health treatment than he would at a traditional juvenile lockdown.

The disposition hearing will not change Leonard’s options on sentencing. She must choose between sending the boy to the state Juvenile Justice Detention System, as prosecutors are suggesting; finding an alternative placement facility, as hoped for by the defense; or placing him on probation – an unlikely outcome considering he used a gun.

Leonard earlier ruled that the boy's actions did not rise to the standard of first-degree murder, which requires premeditation, but rather the lesser crime of second-degree murder. Under state law, he could be held as a ward of the state until the age of 23.

Throughout the case, Hardy said an abusive and violent upbringing taught the defendant it was acceptable to kill people who were a threat. Hardy argued that the boy thought if he shot his dad, the violence would end.

In the early morning hours of May 1, 2011, the then 10-year-old crept down the stairs of his family home and shot his father at point-blank range with a .357 Magnum while he slept on a sofa, according to court testimony.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the boy's age.

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