RIVERSIDE, California (Reuters) - Attorneys representing a 12-year-old California boy charged with murdering his neo-Nazi father rested their case Tuesday without calling him to testify in a case that drew attention due to the rarity of a parent being slain by a child so young.
Lawyers for Joseph Hall concede that the boy, then just 10 years old, shot his father in May 2011 at point blank range, but argue that he should not be held criminally responsible. The gun belonged to his father, Jeffrey Hall, 32.
The boy’s lawyers had suggested on Monday that he might testify in his own defense before the closely watched juvenile trial in Riverside County Superior Court concludes.
But defense attorney Matthew Hardy, in resting his case, said Hall would not be taking the witness stand, clearing the way for closing arguments to begin on Wednesday. Hardy did not elaborate on the decision.
Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard said she would likely render her verdict in the case, which is being conducted without a jury, on Monday morning.
“At this point, I‘m really not sure what I‘m going to do. I haven’t made any decisions,” Leonard told the attorneys.
The case has made headlines because of the father’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 were committed by defendants aged 10 or younger.
Hardy formally withdrew a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on Monday and said that he would ask during closing arguments that the charges against Hall be dismissed on the grounds that prosecutors had not proven the boy was culpable.
Since Hall is a minor, the purpose of the trial is not to determine guilt or innocence but whether certain allegations about his motives are true. If he is found responsible for the crime, he could be sent to a juvenile facility until he is 23.
The outcome hinges on the boy’s understanding of right and wrong at the time. Defense lawyers have said the boy was conditioned by his father’s violent, racist behavior and that he killed him to put an end to the physical abuse inflicted on him.
Prosecutors say Hall, who lived with four siblings, killed 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.
Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and M.D. Golan