|R.I.P. Jeff Hall, 1979-2011 (in the foreground with megaphone)|
The murder trial of the son of the late National Socialist Movement (NSM) activist Jeff Hall is scheduled to begin on Tuesday October 30th, 2012. The 12-year-old boy, now identified as Joseph Hall (although the AP refuses to identify him because of his age), is accused of deliberately shooting his father at the family’s Riverside home on May 1st, 2011; on May 4th, he was charged with one count of murder and one count of using a gun in the commission of a murder. He has been found mentally competent to stand trial. However, prosecutors say the boy’s exposure to white racialist culture probably won’t play a big role at trial. At the time of the murder, Hall was the NSM's Southwestern States Regional Director, and had run unsuccessfully for the Division 2 seat of the Western Municipal Water District Board in Riverside County in November 2010.
After his arrest, the boy told investigators he went downstairs and shot his father before returning upstairs and hiding the gun under his bed, according to court documents. The boy told authorities he thought his father was going to leave his stepmother, and he didn't want the family to split up. He also told authorities that he was abused by his father and was bullied at home and at school, so he killed his father to stop the abuse and to keep the rest of the family together. Court documents also reveal that the boy had been prone to violent outbursts, which predated his father's involvement with the NSM. The boy is the product of Hall's previous marriage to Leticia Neal; she and Hall had squabbled over custody for 10 years since their divorce and accused each other of child abuse. However, there was no substantiation that Hall, who had been granted full custody, had abused the boy.
During the first hearing on Monday October 29th, Judge Jean Leonard granted the defense attorney’s request to have Joseph's hands and legs unshackled during trial. Opening statements by both prosecution and defense will begin on Tuesday; the trial is expected to last two weeks. The Times of India published a surprisingly cogent analysis; they opine that the two sides are likely to differ on both the events that preceded the shooting and Joseph's exact motive, elements complicated by his age and the fact that his father, Jeff Hall, was a neo-Nazi. They note that those facts raise several more philosophical quandaries that, depending on how the judge weighs the answers, may determine the outcome of the trial. Among them: whether racialism can amount to parental abuse, whether a child exposed to such a philosophy can understand the difference between right and wrong, and whether someone who grows up in such toxic circumstances can be blamed for wanting a way out.
If convicted, Joseph Hall could remain in custody until the age of 25, providing he doesn’t commit any crimes while incarcerated. The story is receiving considerable national and international coverage, with reports published by The Independent and News-com.au, which mistakenly published a picture of the late J.T. Ready.
Tuesday October 30th: Opening statements: Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Soccio said the boy told police that he wanted to stop his father from physically abusing him, his stepmom Krista McCrary and his younger siblings, and that he feared his parents would divorce and his dad would have custody of him and his sister. Soccio said that Jeff Hall tried his best to raise an emotionally unstable child prone to violent outbursts who once tried to strangle a teacher with a telephone cord. He also said the boy did not kill has dad because he was a white supremacist, and that it didn’t matter if Hall was a neo-Nazi or a member of the Peace and Freedom Party.
In his opening statement, public defender Matthew Hardy said Joseph Hall told an investigator after the shooting that his mother told him to kill his dad, and that she gave him the gun. Hardy claimed McCrary, who is expected to testify, goaded the boy into killing Hall because Hall was planning to leave her for another woman. Hall sent her text messages on the night he was shot saying he would divorce her. Hardy also said that McCrary sat in on the child's interviews with police and psychiatrists after the shooting and lied to investigators. Also see stories in San Gabriel River Valley Tribune and KABC Channel 7.