A 12-year-old Southern California boy was responsible for the second-degree murder of his father, a regional director of a neo-Nazi organization, a judge ruled Monday.
The "responsible" verdict is the juvenile-court equivalent of guilty. The case was heard without a jury before a Riverside, Calif., court.
Riverside Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard acknowledged the boy's "long history of abuse and neglect."
"Even with that background, the court must look at the facts of the case," the judge said.
Leonard agreed with a psychologist who testified during trial that for the boy, "the potential for violence could have been predicted" based on prenatal substance abuse by the mother, domestic violence between parents and the father's neo-Nazi philosophy.
Leonard said she considered the boy's age, the circumstance of the crime, the boy's experience, including family and mental condition, and his understanding of the crime.
"This was not a naive boy," Leonard said. "(He) knew about hate."
"(He) knew what he was doing was wrong at the time of the crime," the judge said.
The judge laid out the morning of the crime: Before dawn on May 1, 2011, the boy got the family's .357 Magnum out of his parents' room while everyone was asleep. He walked downstairs to where his father, 32-year-old Jeff Hall, was sleeping on the couch. He put the gun to his father's head and pulled the trigger with both hands. The boy then went up to his room and hid the gun under the bed.
Leonard said the boy's statements made within the first 24 hours following the crime were "the most believable." Those statements gave "a clear picture of whether he understood whether what he did was wrong," the judge said.
The judge said after the crime, the boy — who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity — told police, "if you want to kill someone, you shoot them in the head."
In a videotaped interview with police, the boy said he didn't think he'd get in trouble because he saw an episode of "Criminal Minds" in which a child killed an abusive father and wasn't arrested.
Prosecutors maintained Hall's white supremacist beliefs had nothing to do with the crime. They noted the boy had a history of violence that dated back to kindergarten when he stabbed a teacher with a pencil. The boy was expelled from approximately eight schools, Leonard said.
Prosecutors also said the boy told his younger sister two days before the shooting that he planned to kill his father.
Defense attorney Matthew Hardy said his client grew up in an abusive and violent environment and learned it was acceptable to kill people who were a threat. Hardy contended the boy thought if he shot his dad the violence would end.
"There's not a racist bone in his body," Hardy said following Monday's verdict.
Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 15.
- May 4, 2011: Boy Charged in Slaying of Neo-Nazi Father
- Oct. 30, 2012: Trial Begins For Boy Who Admitted to Shooting His Father, a Neo-Nazi Leader
- Jan. 9, 2013: Trial Nears End for Southern California Boy Accused in Neo-Nazi Father's Death