A boy who shot his neo-Nazi father in theÂ head at age 10 has been found guilty of murder by a California judge.
Joseph Hall, now 12, was convicted of killingÂ Jeff Hall, 32, despite arguments from defense lawyers that the child was beatenÂ and kicked by his abusive father and that he was too young to understand what heÂ was doing.
Riverside Superior Court Judge Jean LeonardÂ found that Joseph was legally responsible for the death, but opted for a lesserÂ charge of second-degree murder – indicating that the killing was notÂ premeditated as prosecutors had argued.
Prosecutors say the boy has a history ofÂ violent behavior – choking his teacher, stabbing his sister and clubbing hisÂ uncle – and that he planned the killing because he didn’t like hisÂ father.
He will be sentenced on February 15 and couldÂ remain in custody until he is 23 – the maximum possible sentence for a juvenileÂ his age.
Joseph could be sent to a juvenile detentionÂ lockup or could spend the time in a private care facility that would provideÂ treatment, therapy and schooling.
Defense lawyers have argued for the latterÂ sentence.
Jeff Hall was the regional leader of theÂ National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group and was an outspoken whiteÂ supremacist. Prosecutors have urged Judge Leonard to ignore Hall’s racistÂ affiliations – arguing that they have no bearing on the murder trial.
Joseph’s younger sister bolstered theÂ prosecution’s case last week by testifying that the boy plotted the shootingÂ days in advance.
‘This boy laid awake and thought aboutÂ shooting his father. He told investigators that he “thought this thing betweenÂ father and son had to end,”‘ Riverside County Deputy District Attorney MikeÂ Soccio said last week, according to the Desert Sun.
Prosecutors say he waited until Jeff HallÂ passed out drunk on the couch after an argument with his wife and then retrievedÂ his father’s Rossi .357 magnum revolver and shot him in the head at point-blankÂ range.
Prosecutors argue that the child killed hisÂ father to keep him fromÂ splitting up with his stepmother, who at first said sheÂ had killedÂ 32-year-old Jeff Hall but then quickly retracted her statement. SheÂ wasÂ not charged in the case.
Joseph admitted to the shooting and toldÂ police that he didn’t think he would be prosecuted because he saw an episode ofÂ the TV crime drama criminal minds where a young boy killed his abusive fatherÂ and wasn’t arrested.
‘A bad father did something to his kids andÂ the kid did the exact same thing I did – he shot him,’ the boy said in a videoÂ recording of an interview played at the trial.
‘He told the truth and wasn’t arrested andÂ the cops believed him. He wasn’t in trouble or anything. I thought maybe theÂ exact same thing would happen to me,’ Joseph said.
Defense attorney Matthew Hardy said hisÂ client grew up in an abusive and violent environment and learned it wasÂ acceptable to kill people whoÂ were a threat. Hardy contended the boy thought ifÂ he shot his dad, theÂ violence would end.
‘He was kept in an environment where he wasÂ conditioned to use violence. He learned that from his dad,’ Hardy told theÂ judge.
He said the California Department of PublicÂ Social Services received 20 complaints about the Hall household over sevenÂ years, but never took action.
Joseph was also permanently expelled fromÂ elementary school.
‘Society told him, “You’re all alone, kid,”‘Â Hardy told the judge.
Prosecutors, though, say Joseph – even by ageÂ 10 – had a history of using violence to get what he wanted.
He choked a teacher, stabbed his littleÂ sister and hit his uncle in the head with a club, according toÂ authorities.