When the child of Jeff Hall fatally shot him last spring, investigators wondered if the 10-year-old killed his father because the California man belonged to neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Movement. CBS' "60 Minutes" explored the murder in a segment Sunday, interviewing the authorities and Hall's family about his killing. But whether white supremacist culture influenced Hall's son to murder him isn't so easy to determine, "60 Minutes" found.
For one, the boy's grandmother said that Joseph Hall has long acted out. Police discovered that he'd set fires, attacked students and almost choked one of his teachers with a phone cord, "60 Minutes" reported.
"My grandson was who he was from the time he was born...He has absolutely no understanding of cause and effect," Joann Patterson told "60 Minutes" reporter Lesley Stahl.
That being said, Hall's decision to teach Joseph about firearms and related equipment, expose him to white supremacist strategizing sessions and take him on trips to patrol the California-Mexico border to round up undocumented immigrants likely didn't help matters. "My son was able to operate a Gen-1 night vision and the infrared scope," Hall once boasted. "At the age of 9, my son's out at the border."
Neo-Nazism and Joseph's violent tendencies weren't the only contributing factors to the patricide. There was also the fact that Hall reportedly physically abused his wife and son. In fact, Joseph told authorities that he killed his father to "end the son versus father thing."
But the alleged physical abuse Joseph endured doesn't absolve white supremacist culture from blame. Children as young as Joseph rarely kill parents. Only nine such cases of a 10-year-old murdering a parent have occurred since 1980, according to the Department of Justice. Michael Soccio, prosecutor in the case, agreed with Lesley Stahl that Joseph may have been a naturally volatile child but that exposure to neo-Nazism influenced him to act out.
"He found himself in a situation or believed he was in a situation that required some kind of desperate act," Soccio said. "What's unusual about Joseph Hall is that his solution to it was to kill. Most children don't think about, 'What I'll need to do here is kill my father.'"
The case is an all-around tragedy. It's tragic that a 10-year-old boy with little concept of right and wrong will probably spend the rest of his formative years incarcerated. It's tragic that Hall, an unemployed plumber and construction worker, turned to white supremacist culture to give him a sense of belonging after three years of fruitlessly trying to find work. It's tragic that Hall's wife lost custody of her other children after his murder for keeping a loaded gun in their reach.
If any good came from this situation, it's that Hall's mother told "60 Minutes" that she's not raising her grandchildren to be white supremacists. Instead, she said, they'll be raised as conservative Republicans. No matter your political ideologies, you have to admit that's a better alternative than raising the children to hate blacks, Jews and immigrants and fear the so-called "browning of America."