A 10-year-old boy, Joseph H., allegedly shot and killed (CA Penal Code 187) his father while the man was sleeping on the couch. In another outrageous ruling, the California Supreme Court decided against reviewing the conviction of the Riverside County boy, letting stand a ruling that said someone that young can knowingly waive their legal right to remain silent.
The boy's father was allegedly a drug addict and had physically abused the boy and his mother several times, as well as threatened to burn down the house with the family inside. The court, voted 4 to 3 against hearing the case.
Records show that Joseph suffered from attention deficit disorder, was below average intelligence, and had been exposed to many illegal drugs when his mother was pregnant with him
The court had to decide on the issue of whether Joseph knowingly waived his Miranda rights when he confessed to police of the murder. Two lower courts upheld the waiver.
Joseph was one of 613 California children under the age of 12 who were arrested for felonies in 2011. California courts usually decide that minors who are 15 years and older are capable of waiving their rights. There has been one instance where a California court upheld a waiver by a 12-year-old. Joseph is the first in which a 10-year-old has had a waiver upheld.
Joseph was found guilty of second-degree murder for shooting Jeff Hall, his father and a West Coast leader of a neo-Nazi organization. The boy was sentenced to a maximum of 40 years to life, but because of his age he must be released when he turns 23.
This case shows how the issues surrounding Miranda rights of young children are controversial. How young is too young for children to knowingly waive their rights? The Supreme Court has failed to deal with this rationally. Children must be protected, A 10 year-old is never able to knowingly and voluntarily waive their Miranda rights.
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