Boy Says He Could Not Endure Father's Beatings

By SARAH FREEMAN, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - A 13-year-old boy has testified he killed his father because he was tired of years of harsh discipline and beatings with homemade paddles and didn't expect it to stop.

Gregory Scruggs Jr. told Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Janet Burney on Wednesday that whenever he told somebody about the beatings, "nothing would happen."

Gregory has said his father would hit him with hangers and mop handles and handcuff him when he was angry.

He's being tried on a delinquency count of voluntary manslaughter. If convicted, he could be sentenced to juvenile detention until the age of 21.

Gregory confessed to shooting and killing his father, Gregory Scruggs, 40, in June in their suburban Shaker Heights dining room.

Gregory said his father was preparing to beat him for watching an NBA playoff game with a cousin after being told not to.

When police showed up, Gregory told them that they could find the gun, his father's own .38-caliber revolver, at his grandmother's house in Cleveland. After shooting his father, he ran there with the gun, a Bible and his video games.

County prosecutor Blaise Thomas spent most of his cross-examination time Wednesday asking Gregory about being angry and lying to his father.

"We're trying to establish that the thought process of this child included things like anger, like not abiding by his father's rules," Thomas said. "We're not condoning the physical discipline that's being described, but the issue here, from our point of view, is an act of retribution. Retribution is not self defense."

Gregory, speaking in a monotone voice and often giving one-word answers, acknowledged his past misbehavior.

"I've lied before, but I've told the truth too," Gregory said.

From the beginning of the trial, Gregory's lawyers have maintained that he was an abused child who was only defending himself when he put a single bullet into the back of his father's head.

"Do you remember a time when you weren't getting beat?" defense attorney Anthony Kellon asked his client.

Gregory said he began "getting whooped" when he was about four years old, and began "getting beat" at the age of seven. When asked to describe what he meant by "getting beat," Gregory said that's when he would get hit in the face.

"I think he's doing very well (testifying)," said defense attorney George George. "Every time he's been asked 'why were you angry?' and 'why did you do this?' he answers that he was being beaten. He felt like he had no choice."

Gregory told Thomas that his biggest fear right now is going to the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

"I know people are trying to keep me in there until I'm 21," Gregory said.

Prosecutors said they expect the trial to wrap up by the end of the week.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)