The Riverside boy accused of murdering his neo-Nazi father decided not to take the witness stand Tuesday, bringing an end to testimony in a juvenile court trial that attracted nationwide interest.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean P. Leonard must decide whether the boy knew it was wrong to shoot and kill his father as he slept on the family’s living room couch in May 2011. If found responsible for the murder, the boy could remain in juvenile custody until he is 23.
The boy was 10 years old when he shot Jeffrey Hall, regional director of a neo-Nazi organization called the National Socialist Movement.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Wednesday morning and the judge said she expects to release her ruling Monday.
Testimony and evidence in the case, which began in October, revolved around the boy’s upbringing and a family life steeped in the hatred and violence of the neo-Nazi movement, with psychologists focusing on whether those circumstances altered his capacity to realize that killing his father was wrong.
Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Soccio argued that the boy plotted to kill his father because of fears that the father was about to divorce the boy’s stepmother and break up the family. Soccio presented evidence that the boy expressed remorse within hours after the shooting.
Public Defender Matthew Hardy focused on the boy’s abusive home life, where gunplay and neo-Nazi gatherings were commonplace. Witnesses testified that Hall beat his son repeatedly, often in drunken or drug-addled rages.
Social workers responded to the Hall household more than 20 times. At the time of the shooting, the boy was a dependent of the court, an effort designed in part to shield him from further abuse, Hardy said.
Clinical psychologist Anna Salter, a mental health expert called by the prosecution, testified that the boy’s birth mother used heroin, LSD and other drugs while she was pregnant, which she called “devastating” to the boy’s development. The boy also has an extensive history of violence dating to when he was 3. In school, he once tried to strangle a teacher with a telephone cord, she said.
Hall and his first wife divorced shortly after the boy was born. Hall won full custody when the boy was 3.
If the judge 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 killing, a hearing will be held to determine where to place him.