It has been observed that the apple never falls far from the tree. It has also been observed (by a respected criminology professor in an October 30 article by the Associated Press) that children age 10 and under rarely kill their parents. And there you have the beginnings of the defense to be made for a 12-year-old California boy who has been charged with murdering his neo-Nazi father two years ago.
Prosecutors say the boy, who confessed to putting a .357 Magnum to his father’s head and pulling the trigger while Dad was napping on the couch, had a long (for a 10-year-old) history of violence and trouble at school even before Dad became an active white supremacist. But the boy’s public defender has argued that the boy had been conditioned to violence by his home life, and his stepmother (who owned the gun) has said the father was prone to hitting, kicking and yelling at the boy. The father and the boy’s natural mother had divorced amid mutual accusations of child abuse.
As the criminology professor also pointed out: Parenting is likely to play a role in this case.
Ironically, based on what the boy has told investigators, his motive was not to put an end to his father’s various campaigns of violence; rather, he feared his father was going to leave his stepmother, and he didn’t want to go through another family break-up. If that sounds like a somewhat skewed approach — killing Dad to keep the family together — you will see the reasoning behind another defense used in a case such as this: That the mind of a 10-year-old is not developed enough to fully understand the consequences of his actions. This is the argument currently being made on appeal in an Indiana case, in which a 12-year-old boy was tried as an adult and found guilty of helping to kill his friend’s father.
It may be time for the criminology professor, author of the 1994 book Why Kids Kill Parents, to start working on Volume 2.