A 12-year-old California boy was convicted of second-degree murder today for shooting dead his neo-Nazi father, following a juvenile trial that centered on abuse allegations and the young defendant's grasp of right and wrong.
The verdict by Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard means that Joseph Hall, who shot his father to death in May 2011, could be sentenced to a juvenile facility until he is 23.
Hall's attorneys had conceded during the trial that Hall, who was then 10 years old, shot his father at point-blank range while the older man was sleeping, but argued that the boy should not be held criminally responsible.
The case in Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, has made headlines because of Jeffrey Hall's neo-Nazi associations and the rarity of a parent being killed by a child so young.
Kathleen Heide, a criminologist who specializes in juvenile offenders, has said that 8,000 murder victims over the past 32 years were slain by their offspring, but only 16 of those crimes were committed by defendants aged 10 or younger.
A psychologist called as a witness by the defense testified during the trial that Hall had been conditioned to violence by years of physical, emotional and likely sexual abuse.
But prosecutors said Hall, who lived with four siblings, shot his father because he thought he was planning to divorce his stepmother, Krista McCary. Prosecutors said the boy was close to McCary and considered her his true mother.