A lawyer for 13-year-old boy who killed his neo-Nazi father blasted a judge's decision Thursday to place him in a state-run juvenile justice facility for a maximum of 10 years, criticizing not only the ruling — a "miscarriage of justice" — but also the "antiquated" process.
"She got it wrong, we knew she would get it wrong," attorney Punam Grewal said of Judge Jean P. Leonard's ruling shortly after it was announced.
The boy had been found guilty of second-degree murder and using a gun while committing a felony — crimes that carried a sentence of 40 years to life in prison. But, according to prosecutors, because he was charged as a juvenile, he can be held in state custody only until he is 23, with a mandated parole hearing in seven years.
Prosecutors said that there's potential for him to be release even sooner with good behavior.
But Grewal had advocated that the boy be sent to a private but still secure residential treatment facility that would better serve him because of his special needs. She said Thursday that they would appeal the decision.
"We presented overwhelming evidence that this particular correctional facility is not fit for this particular child," she said, "due to his disabilities, due to his individual life circumstances and the fact that he's going to be the youngest child surrounded by gang members and older kids who have committed sexual offenses."
But, Grewal said, those options had been thwarted because he had been charged with second-degree murder. "The complaint was overcharged," she said outside the courthouse. "There was a complete disregard of the evidence of the child's disabilities, complete disregard of the evidence of the horrific 10 years of abuse that he suffered."
Hall was a West Coast leader of a neo-Nazi organization known as the National Socialist Movement. During the trial, an attorney for the boy said Hall had routinely beaten him. Shortly before Hall was killed, he had threatened to leave the family and to set the house on fire with his children and wife inside.
The boy, his attorneys argued, probably believed he was acting to protect his family when, on the morning of May 1, 2011, he shot his father point-blank in the head.
The judge previously ruled that the boy, who was 10 when the crime happened, possessed the mental capacity to know that killing his father, Jeffrey Hall, was wrong. The Times is withholding the boy's identity because of his age.
For Michael Soccio, the chief deputy district attorney who handled the case, the decision was bittersweet. He said he had grown to like to boy, and to see him as a survivor of a rough childhood. But he was a "lost soul," he said. With the judge's ruling, he contended that the boy would get the help he needs.
"My hope is that he can face up to what he did and be able to handle that," he said," and be able to come out as undamaged as possible."