By Alex Distefano
On Oct. 31, a 13-year-old from Riverside was sentenced to be placed under the custody of the Dept. of Juvenile Justice, and sent to a state detention facility, for killing his father on May 1, 2011. The juvenile defendant, Joseph, was 10 when he fatally shot his father, Jeff Hall, in the back of the head. His father was a regional leader for the neo-Nazi white supremacist National Socialist Movement.
The teenager was convicted of second degree murder earlier this year, but now his attorneys are appealing his sentence of 40 years to life, which they claim as unjust, considering the boys sever emotional disability and other special needs; not to mention the fact that he was abused (both physically and possibly sexually according to court documents) and raised in a traumatic, violent, racist household where fear of beatings and other abuse were a daily constant.
From the beginning of this sensational, brutal news story of the murder, the crime and subsequent trial have made headlines around the world, with BBC, NBC, Huffington Post and even 60 Minutes all covering the story as it developed, from the crime scene to the court room.
Now, attorneys for the boy, told news station ABC 7, they have immediate plans to file for an appeal, saying the boy’s special needs cannot be met in the state facility, and that he faces harm from older inmates who might be gang members or sex offenders. Making things worse, he will be the youngest prisoner in the state of California.
“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. She expressed concern that his needs wouldn’t be met if he were sent to a state juvenile justice facility.
Riverside County DA spokesman John Hall told the Weekly that however, the 40-year sentence is misleading and there has been some misreporting. “I want to make sure something is clear, as I have heard some misinformation being given,” he said. “The longest he will serve in custody in the sentence in this case is until he turns 23. He is 13 now.”
Hall said that by law, the boy would have a mandated parole hearing in seven years. “The 40 years to life that the judge addressed is the sentence he would have received as an adult, as that is the sentence for the crimes which she found that he committed. She has to address that at the sentencing. “However, it does not mean he will serve a sentence of 40 years to life. He will not, and cannot. He does not go into adult prison custody when he turns 23. His sentence is complete when he turns 23.”
Hall declined to comment or speculate about the plans of the defense to appeal the sentence.
The defense attorneys for the boy, which also include Upland lawyers Marc Grossman and Punam Grewal, argued that the system failed the teenager: despite the evidence for abuse within the home at the hands of the father, and obvious trouble sings from a young age that he boy needed help, the educational system and social services did nothing to intervene when they should have.
They also point to the very brutal and horrid physical abuse the boy and his step mom had to deal with, and claim that he was not in a mental or emotional state to stand trial or even understand the consequences of what he did.
Grewal even told ABC 7 that she feels the Riverside County DA’s Office neglected this evidence, and violated the boy’s civil rights. She mentioned that some of his disabilities might be from emotional and physical trauma caused from his father’s violent rage.
“Six times in one day, he was beaten by his dad. He slept in his own vomit; he was pushed down the stairs,” Grewel told the TV news station ABC 7. “All of this evidence came in. It was there. What did we make of it? Absolutely nothing.”
The attorneys for the boy will argue that the boy should be held in a treatment center that can meet his needs and allow him a proper chance at rehabilitation and treatment.