A judge has decided that a 10-year-old boy who snuck down the stairs in the middle of the night and fatally shot his father is guilty of second-degree murder, AP reports.
Judge Jean Leonard determined that the boy, now 12, knew right from wrong when he shot his father as he slept on the family couch in May 2011.
The case has attracted national attention because of the boy's extremely young age and the fact that his father is prominent neo-Nazi activist Jeffrey Hall.
Hall, 32, was a regional leader in the National Socialist Movement and raised his son in a home where gunplay and neo-Nazi gatherings took place, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Defense attorney Matthew Hardy did not dispute that the boy shot his father at point blank but argued that he killed him to end a cycle of violence. Testimony in the case centered around the boy's home life with his father whom Hardy says was physically and emotionally abusive.
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According to the LA Times, the child was a dependent of the court at the time of the shooting in an effort to shield him from abuse.
“We, as a society, for the first 10 years of his life didn’t do a damn thing to protect him. DPSS (Department of Public Social Services) was to his house, I don’t know, 10, 20 times; didn’t do a thing to protect him,” Hardy told CBS.
Hardy said the child killed Hall to end years of physical abuse but the prosecutors paint a different picture.
Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Michael Soccio said during his closing arguments that Hall was not the violent man depicted by the defense, despite his neo-Nazi ties.
"[The child] was not raised in the home described by the defense here," Soccio told Reuters. "It doesn't exist. It's fiction, a smoke screen, a red herring."
A separate hearing will be held next month determine where the boy will be taken. Because he is a juvenile, he can only be held in custody until he is 23 years old.