A boy who was 10 years old when he fatally shot his neo-Nazi father behind the ear at point-blank range is due to be sentenced next week, and both his mother and his attorney fear what could happen to him if he ends up in a facility without round-the clock supervision.
Joseph Hall, now 13, has been living in Riverside County, Calif.'s juvenile hall since the killing of his father two years ago, regional neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall.
On Friday, a hearing began to determine how Joseph should be punished for the second-degree murder he was convicted of in January, and will decide where he'll live out the rest of his adolescent years — and possibly early adulthood.
A prosecutor is pushing for him to be sent to the state's juvenile justice system, where he would go to classes and live in a high-security setting, up to age 23.
"My wish for Joseph is that he goes to an education place that can get him the help he needs — educational, and emotional too," Leticia Neal, his mother, told NBC Los Angeles, adding she feared his needs wouldn't be met if he were sent to a state juvenile justice facility. "With the current situation, it looks really dim."
Joseph, who also has learning disabilities, grew up in an abusive environment, with Child Protective Services responding to the family's home 23 times, NBC Los Angeles reported. No children were ever removed from the household, despite the numerous visits.
The boy's defense attorneys echo his mother's concerns. They say he has emotional disabilities beyond what the state can handle, and argue he should be in a residential treatment center, where the emphasis is less on security and more on therapy.
Punam Patel Grewal, defense attorney for the teen, said she worried the state would not be open to putting him in a private facility that provides constant supervision instead of a juvenile facility.
"I think the writing's been on the wall for a very long time and California hasn't historically offered a lot of options for children who are as young as Joseph with the disabilities that he has," she said.
She added he belongs in a secure place that addresses his "very pervasive history of abuse as a very young child."
The sentencing hearing is likely to wrap up by next Wednesday, Grewal said.
The child who grew up being indoctrinated in the beliefs of white supremacy was troubled from an early age, according to his mother, exhibiting behavioral issues since pre-school.
"He needs a multitude of things," Neal told NBC Los Angeles. "I just want what any other mother or father would want for their children."
On May 1, 2011, Jeff Hall was sleeping on the couch after a night of drinking when his son took a .357-Magnum from his dad and stepmother's bedroom, placed the gun against his father's head, and pulled the trigger.
Joseph later told police that his father and stepmother had been fighting and were going to get a divorce, and he was afraid he would have to choose which one he would have to live with.
His stepmother told authorities that Hall physically abused his son if he was loud or got in the way. Hall and Neal separated shortly after the boy turned one; the two were involved in a prolonged custody dispute.
At school, Joseph's troubles started at age 5, when he stabbed a teacher with a pencil on the first day of kindergarten. He had a history of being expelled, and had tried to strangle another teacher with a phone cord, according to the AP.
Hall, 32, was an unemployed plumber and a regional leader of the National Socialist Movement. He organized neo-Nazi rallies at synagogues and day labor sites.
In his time at Riverside Juvenile Hall, Joseph has attended courses, gotten therapy, and managed to control the violence that got him kicked out of schools. According to the AP, he has even won over the prosecutor who convicted him.
"I have grown attached to him in an odd way. I enjoy watching him grow and change but I am convinced he has done better in a quasi-military penal environment," Riverside County Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Soccio told the AP. "He seems to like it, he knows what the rules are and what is expected and he is treated with dignity."
Experts who have examined Joseph are on the witness list for the hearing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published October 25 2013, 8:16 AM