The defendant, who is also the victims son is currently the youngest person in the custody of California’s corrections department.
A judge in California has found a 12-year-old boy guilty of second-degree murder for the shooting death of his father, 32-year-old Jeff Hall, two years ago. Riverside Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard said the child knew what he did was wrong, noting that the boy lay in bed waiting for the right moment before shooting his father at point-blank range with a .357 Magnum while he slept on the sofa.
The Associated Press reports that although the boy’s step-mother testified that his father had abused him, Judge Leonard had to weigh the “severity of the crime versus whether the amount of abuse and neglect played a significant role in the slaying.” Judge Leonard, who heard the case without a jury said, “This was not a complex killing. He thought about the idea and shot his father.”
Defense attorney Matthew Hardy said because of the abuse his client learned it was acceptable to kill people who were a threat. The boy thought if he shot his dad, the violence would end, Hardy said.
Hall had previously taken the boy on a U.S.-Mexico border patrol trip and showed him how to use a gun, according to court documents.
The challenge now for the legal system is to find the best place where the boy can be rehabilitated. Prosecutors said it’s likely the boy, who is not being identified by The Associated Press because of his age, will most likely be placed in state custody, making him the youngest person currently in the custody of California’s corrections department.
Hardy said he hoped the boy would not be sent to a juvenile lockup but rather be placed in a private facility that offers therapy, medical treatment and schooling. He said, “I just don’t want him warehoused some place.”
Unfortunately, with a sentence of second-degree murder there may not be much else that can be done for this young man. The sentencing hearing has been set for February, 15, and depending on what the judge decides he could be held by the corrections department until he is at least 23.
Taking the defendant’s age into consideration, do you think a charge of second-degree murder is appropriate?
What would be an appropriate sentence in a case such as this?