UPDATE 4:01 p.m.: Supporters call on Governor Jerry Brown for clemency
Defense attorneys and politicians on Tuesday called on Governor Jerry Brown to pardon or commute the sentence of a Riverside boy convicted of murdering his Neo-Nazi father. State Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco also said he's crafting legislation that would provide leniency for children who attack their abusers.
The boy shot his father, Jeff Hall, in the head as the man slept on a couch in the family's home in 2011.
KPCC is not naming the boy because of his age – 10 at the time of the murder – and the nature of the crime.
During the trial, defense attorneys produced evidence that Hall abused the boy and argued he'd been taught to deal with problems through violence. They also said child protective workers were called to the house on numerous occasions. But Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard ruled the boy knew what he was doing when he shot his father at point blank range with a .357 magnum handgun.
Then, last week, after a protracted debate about where the boy should be placed, Leonard sided with prosecutors, who argued he should be sent to the Division of Juvenile Justice – California's juvenile prison system. Defense attorneys had argued for placement in a private facility that could better cater to the boy's serious emotional and educational needs.
On Tuesday, State Senator Leland Yee, who is also a child psychologist, said the DJJ was not the ideal environment for such a child.
"I don't believe, as a psychologist, that you ought to be sentencing 10-year-old kids or 13-year-old kids into prison," Yee said. "It is not the doing of that particular child, it is the system. Had the system worked well for that particular child, that child would not be in the particular situation where he then needs to kill or shoot his father."
Yee said he's looking into introducing legislation that would provide some degree of leniency to children who can prove their crimes stemmed from abuse.
Punam Grewal, the boy's attorney, said she's preparing to appeal the boy's conviction. As things stand at the moment, he'll first be eligible for probation in seven years, though he may be kept in the DJJ until he turns 23.
Grewal is concerned that the boy's age, his unusual upbringing, emotional needs, and learning disabilities might make his rehabilitation at DJJ impossible. She, along with former State Senator Gloria Romero, called for the boy's pardon. As did a former Riverside prosecutor who said he was on call the morning Hall died and went to the murder scene.
"I saw everything. I saw the condition in which these children lived," said Ambrosio Rodriguez, who is now a private attorney. "It was Dickensian. The rooms were a disaster, they smelled of urine and of rot."
DJJ Spokesman Bill Sessa said the state's juvenile facilities are designed to rehabilitate.
"Counseling and treatment is the primary focus of each child's day and I'm guessing the court knew that when they made their decision," Sessa said.
The Riverside District Attorneys Office declined to comment. In the past, they've said the boy needs a secure environment that provides structure, routine, and accountability, and argued that the DJJ provides those things.
PREVIOUSLY: Attorneys for Riverside boy who murdered Neo-Nazi father to appeal for leniency, reform
Attorneys for a Riverside boy convicted of killing his neo-Nazi father have announced they will launch a campaign to keep the boy out of California's juvenile detention system Tuesday. A judge last week ruled he shoud go there, instead of a treatment facility.
KPCC has decided not to print the boy’s name due to his age and the circumstances of the case.
He was 10 years old when he shot and killed his father, Jeff Hall, in the head while he slept. Hall, 32, was a regional leader of the National Socialist Movement.
The boy's defense attorneys had argued the boy, because of his serious educational and emotional needs, should be sent to a private facility for treatment. Instead, a superior court judge determined the boy will be sent to the state's Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). His first chance at being released will be in seven years.
Attorneys also claimed Hall abused the boy for years, prompting numerous calls to child welfare workers. They say the DJJ, the subject of reform efforts for years, lacks the ability to properly rehabilitate and educate the boy.
At a press conference Tuesday, attorneys for the boy say they'll lay out the case for appealing the boy's conviction.
State Senator Leland Yee, known as an advocate for youth in the justice system, is also expected to attend. Yee is in the early stages of writing legislation that would give a certain amount of leniency to juvenile offenders who've been abused.