A New Mexico boy who was 10 years old when he killed his father with a single shot to the head will stand trial later this month for first-degree murder.
Byron Hilburn, 42, was killed with his own shotgun by his son in 2009 after the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department had been called to his home seven times but apparently saw nothing wrong, according to a KRQE TV report at the time of the killing.
The boy is now 14 and living in Oklahoma. After shooting his father, the distraught boy called 911 to report the murder saying that he had shot his father in the head because he got “so angry” at him.
The boy’s attorney, William Cooley, said he plans to call more than three dozen witnesses who will testify to Hilburn’s abuse of his children. Hilburn's 6-year-old daughter was also in the room at the time of the shooting.
Cooley will attempt to show that the boy was not aware of the consequences of his action at the time.
“This is the saddest case I've ever seen," Cooley said. "I don't know why this is even going to court."
The boy will be tried as a juvenile, meaning that even if convicted he will remain incarcerated only until the age of 21.
Cooley is also seeking a change of venue for the trial, slated to open Aug. 26, saying that Hilburn’s strong ties to local law enforcement authorities make it unlikely that the boy will get a fair trial.
Prosecutors wanted the boy’s sister to testify in the trial, but the defense team convinced an appeals court not to let that happen.
Cooley, however, says the crux of the case is not whether or not the boy killed his father, but why.
"Here you had a 250-pound man who liked to kick these kids around," Cooley told the Associated Presss. "The state failed to protect them. That's the issue."
SOURCES: Associated Press (via Houston Chronicle), KRQE TV