The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has dropped its bid for the death penalty against a Lancaster woman and her boyfriend, who are charged with murder and torture in connection with her 10-year-old son’s death.
Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami—who has criticized new District Attorney George Gascon for a series of directives including one that advises that “`a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case”— opposed the latest decision in the case of Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva.
Barron, 31, and Leiva, 35, could now face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged of murder and torture, along with the special-circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture, for Anthony Avalos’ June 2018 death.
“This is not based upon new evidence. This is not based upon new mitigation or new law. I stand by the special-circumstances committee decision that I announced to the court on the record two years ago,” Hatami said, referring to the August 2019 announcement that the death penalty would be sought against the two under prior District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s administration.
Along with the murder charge, Barron and Leiva are facing two counts of child abuse involving two other children in the home. Leiva is also facing an allegation that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on one of the youngsters in circumstances involving domestic violence.
In court papers, prosecutors alleged that Anthony was severely tortured during the last five or six days of his life by Barron and Leiva, who “abused, beat, assaulted and tortured” him.
The alleged abuse included whipping the boy with a belt and a looped cord, pouring hot sauce on his face and mouth, holding him by his feet and dropping him on his head repeatedly, according to the court papers.