RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) – The boy, dressed up for court with his unruly blond hair slicked down, whispered with his lawyer but showed no reaction when a judge decreed that he be confined to a juvenile lockdown facility for murdering his neo-Nazi father when he was 10.
He is 13 now, but the case is still a source of anguish for those involved.
“It’s hard not to get attached to him,” said Deputy District Attorney Michael Soccio, the veteran prosecutor who argued that a secure facility was preferable to a residential treatment center. “He’s so peculiar and yet charming and a lost soul.”
Following Thursday’s decision, Soccio said he plans to visit the boy and try to help him to be “as undamaged as possible” when he gets out and faces life as an adult.
The teen, neatly dressed in a vest and white shirt, peered at the judge’s seven-page written ruling through thick eye glasses but his lawyer said he did not really comprehend it.
“He’s going to get a significant amount of therapy. I hope he will face up to what he did and come out as undamaged as possible,” prosecutor Soccio said outside court.
He said the boy had anger issues well before his father become involved in white supremacist causes. At age 5 he stabbed a teacher with a pencil during his first day in kindergarten. He also tried to strangle a teacher with a phone cord.
“He was born with a very troubled spirit, a lot of anger,” said Soccio. “He was unable to control his anger from the time he was tiny.”
The judge who found him guilty of second-degree murder in January said she thought long and hard about the appropriate placement for him .
“This is an individual with exceptional needs,” Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean R. Leonard said.
The boy shot his father, Jeffrey Hall, 32, at point-blank range as he slept off a night of drinking on a sofa in their home on May 1, 2011.
The youth told police he was afraid he would have to choose between living with his father or stepmother if the couple divorced.
The boy would have been sentenced to 40 years to life in prison had he been convicted as an adult, the judge said.
The longest he can be held as a juvenile is until age 23, and he will become eligible for parole in seven years or less depending on good behavior.
Defense attorney Punam Grewal, who fought for a less harsh confinement, said afterward: “This is a complete miscarriage of justice.” She planned to appeal.
She said the boy, whose name is not being used by The Associated Press because of his age, will be the youngest prisoner In the juvenile system and will have no opportunity for education because there is no middle school tutoring available.
The boy has been held in state and county juvenile lockups since his arrest but he has felt unsafe there because of his age, his attorneys have said.
Grewal said the boy called her two days earlier and asked: “Are things going to get better?'”
“They will, but not right now,” she replied.
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