Boy kills neo-Nazi dad: Protecting family or premeditated murder?
The fate of a 12-year-old boy charged with killing his neo-Nazi father now rests in the hands of a Riverside County Superior Court judge who must decide whether the youngster knew what he did was wrong, and what should be done with him.
During closing arguments in the murder trial on Wednesday, contrasting images flashed on a courtroom wall of a 12-year-old boy who pointed a gun at the head of his father, Jeffrey Hall, and pulled the trigger, killing him, in May 2011.
One photograph captured Jeffrey Hall and his children frolicking in the surf, the other showed his son gripping a toy gun and flashing a Nazi salute along with his dad and a hooded Klansman.
The son's attorney, Public Defender Matthew Hardy, told Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean P. Leonard that hate "cooked" inside the boy during years of being his father's punching bag and after hearing Hall threaten to burn down the family's Riverside home with his wife and children inside.
"He believed, in his own damaged way, that what he was doing was justified," Hardy said. "He felt he had to kill his dad to protect the family."
Hardy said the boy was "almost genetically programmed to commit violence."
"This young man never had a chance," Hardy said.
Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Soccio, however, urged the judge not to let the boy escape into the "Alice in Wonderland" juvenile justice system to avoid responsibility for a cold-blooded murder.
Hall was dozing on the living room couch, posing no imminent danger and "probably drunk" when he was shot, Soccio said. The boy also had revealed his plans to his little sister the day before, the prosecutor argued.
"He chose on his own to sneak downstairs and kill a sleeping parent," Soccio said. "He made the choice to kill his father."
Soccio said Hall's affiliation with the National Socialist Movement, while abhorrent to most, didn't mean he was a bad parent, nor did it justify his murder.
If the judge agrees with the defense, the boy would be released, possibly into the foster care system. If she finds him responsible, she could send the youngster to a state prison facility for juveniles or a treatment facility for delinquents, or place him on probation. The boy could remain in juvenile custody until he is 23, at which time the district attorney's office has the rarely used option of petitioning the court to extend his sentence one year at a time.
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-- Phil Willon in Riverside
Photo: Jeffrey Hall holds a neo-Nazi flag in Riverside in 2010. He was fatally shot by his son in May 2011. Credit: Associated Press