Opening statements in the trial of a 12-year-old boy accused of murdering his neo-Nazi father are set to begin Tuesday in Riverside, California.
Then only ten years-old, Joseph Hall deliberately shot his father, who was a rising figure in Nationalist Socialist movement, using a snub-nose revolver at his family’s Riverside home.
“What he did, had it been done by anybody older, there would be no doubt that it was a murder,” said prosecutor Michael Soccio, according to The New York Times. “It’s planned. It’s premeditated. It was carried out in a cold, killing fashion. It is a murder.”
Joseph was present at neo-Nazi gatherings hosted by his parents and was taught at a young age how to use a firearm, but Riverside County prosecutors say the boy’s exposure to white supremacist culture probably won’t play a big role at trial.
Joseph’s public defender, Matthew J. Hardy, says his client has neurological and psychological problems, compounded by exposure to neo-Nazi “conditioning” and physical abuse in the home, the Times reported.
“He’s been conditioned to violence,” Mr. Hardy said, adding, “You have to ask yourself: Did this kid really know that this act was wrong based on all those things?”
Court documents reveal that the child was prone to violent outbursts and was frequently the target of his father’s drunken rages. The boy reportedly told police he killed his father to stop the abuse.
California’s penal code also states that children under 14 cannot be charged with a crime without clear proof that “they knew its wrongfulness.” The judge said she could make a ruling in the case as early as next week.
If convicted, Joseph Hall could remain in custody until the age of 25, providing he doesn’t commit any crimes while incarcerated.