Trial to resume for boy accused of killing neo-Nazi father
The proceeding began in October with testimony that the boy coldly plotted the killing because of fears that his father neo-Nazi leader Jeffrey Hall, planned to leave the boy's stepmother and shatter the family. Hall, an unemployed plumber, allegedly beat and berated his son during drunken rages, his wife and son told investigators.
The trial was delayed to give the prosecution's mental health expert time to assess the boy's mental state. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean P. Leonard had barred testimony from the prosecution's initial expert because the psychologist had taken part in a confidential interview of the boy. A new expert has been chosen and is scheduled to testify.
Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Soccio, in his opening statement, said the sandy-haired boy made a calculated decision to kill his father, making him "no different than any other murderer." The prosecutor called Hall's role as a regional director of the National Socialist Movement a "red herring" that was immaterial to the case.
On Monday, Soccio is expected to call clinical psychologist Anna Salter of Madison, Wis., to testify. Salter is a consultant to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and has expertise in child psychology and sexual abuse.
The fate of the boy, who was 10 at the time of the shooting and has learning disabilities, comes down to whether he realized his actions were wrong when he pulled the trigger.
The boy's name is not being released by The Times because of his age. He has been charged as a juvenile. If the allegations are found to be true, he could remain in juvenile custody until he is 23.
Public defender Matthew Hardy argued that the boy's sense of right and wrong was corrupted from growing up in a household filled with violence and hate. Neo-Nazis frequently gathered at the family home in Riverside, family trips to a shooting range were common, and loaded guns were stashed around the house, he said.
More telling, he said, was that social service investigators never tried to remove the boy from the home after they made more than 20 visits.
"He thought his situation was normal. All this did was confuse the kid even more," Hardy said in a recent interview. "He decided to kill his dad because he wanted to end the violence, protect the family and, to some extent, be the hero."
Authorities said the boy told police he had grabbed his father's Rossi .357 magnum revolver from a closet and went downstairs, where his father was asleep on the couch. He allegedly told them he pulled the hammer back, aimed the gun at his dad's ear and pulled the trigger. The boy then stashed the gun under his bed, officials said.
The case will be weighed by the judge, who must decide whether the child knew that his actions were wrong at the time of the shooting. If Leonard rules that the boy did not comprehend that his actions were wrong, he would be set free. If she finds the boy responsible for the murder, a hearing will be held to determine punishment.
-- Phil Willon
Photo: Neo-Nazi leader Jeffrey Hall was shot and killed at his home near UC Riverside in 2011. Credit: Sandy Huffaker / Associated Press