Over a year had passed since he had been found guilty of murdering his father, the 32-year-old neo-Nazi activist Jeff Hall, on May 1 2011.
Since then prosecutors and defense lawyers had been arguing back and forth about the fate of the young murderer. Meanwhile, Joseph had been flourishing in juvie.
Killer Child Thrives In Juvie, While Lawyers Determine His Fate
When Joseph Hall had first been arrested at the age of ten, he was being home schooled by his high-school dropout father and failing the fourth grade. Having been kicked out of six schools already, despite being assessed as having low-average intelligence he’d struggled with basic math and literacy.
But now for the first time in his life he was in a structured environment. A year after his murder trial Joseph Hall had caught up to his grade level
and was making the detention facility’s student honor roll.
His early childhood had been marred by neglect and suspected sexual abuse, while in latter years his father had terrorized the family with threats and violence.
When police had arrested the 10-year-old in 2011, they’d noted a squalid home, with empty cupboards. Nowadays however, while not exactly a palace, Hall’s juvenile detention center was clean and sanitary. And at very least, the young killer no longer needed to worry about where his next meal was coming from.
Judge Rules Killer Child Joseph Hall Should Face Prison Time
But Joseph Hall could not stay in juvie forever. Once convicted, he would either have to be transferred to a youth prison, or – as Joseph’s lawyers, along with well many child welfare advocates strongly urged – placed in a treatment facility for troubled youngsters.
The Californian Youth Justice system was notoriously disorganized and often brutal. Joseph would be by far one of the youngest prisoners and many feared that he would be vulnerable if detained in a conventional facility.
This was backed by a report from the state Department of Mental Health, which concluded that the teen would be a good candidate for a place in a therapeutic group home. There he would be able to serve out his sentence under 24-hour supervision, with mandatory counseling, which it was hoped could help the troubled youngster to overcome his violent past.
Predator Or Prey?
Even the prosecutor in Joseph Hall’s initial trial, Chief District Attorney Mike Soccio, agreed that court had a huge responsibility in treating this young criminal appropriately.
After winning the state’s case against the 10-year-old killer, he addressed the convicted murderer personally, wanting to assure the boy that his actions in prosecuting the trial should not be taken personally.
Although Soccio would have no role in sentencing, he understood that Hall was at a critical juncture in his young life, telling reporters that “depending on where the courts puts [Joseph], he’s either going to be a predator or prey.”
Despite this, in October 2013 Superior Court Judge Jean P. Leonard, rejected the option of therapeutic custody for Joseph Hall. She sentenced the child to 40-years-to-life in a state juvenile facility. Joseph was going to grow up behind bars.
Defense Lawyer: Joseph Hall A ‘Serial Killer In The Making’
The 40-year sentence was a technicality. Because Joseph had committed the crime while still a child, he would be eligible for parole in seven years. The maximum he was expected to serve was ten years, after which he would be released back in the world, at the age of 23, having spent over half his life in prison.
This was exactly the outcome public defender Matthew Hardy had worked so hard to avoid.
Hardy feared given Joseph’s extremely troubled background, – to say nothing of his proven willingness to inflict lethal violence – that without appropriate intervention his young client could end up “a serial killer”.
Having failed to secure a place in therapeutic custody, Joseph Hall would now have to take his chances in the youth prison system; where a willingness to commit violence often marks the invisible line between the victimized from the victimized.
In 2020 he would be up for parole.