A Baton Rouge woman charged with first-degree murder in the 2012 beating death of her 8-year-old son does not have a plea deal with prosecutors but intends to testify again against the boy’s father in hopes of receiving a prison sentence of “something less than life,” her attorney said Wednesday.
Lavaughn Riley, 36, feels she owes it to Xzayvion Riley to testify at Michael Anthony Robertson’s first-degree murder trial because “it’s the right thing to do,” lawyer Margaret Lagattuta said following a brief status hearing in Riley’s case.
Riley and Robertson, 50, who was her boyfriend at the time of Xzayvion’s death in June 2012, are to be tried separately. Neither has a trial date scheduled. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office has not announced its intentions regarding the death penalty in the case. A first-degree murder conviction can result in either a death sentence or mandatory life in prison.
Riley testified in 2014 at a hearing in Robertson’s case that her son feared his father because he would hit and spank the boy to discipline him. Riley also recalled a February 2012 incident in which she heard Xzayvion’s leg pop when Robertson allegedly broke it while the boy tried to get away from him during what she described as horseplay.
Xzayvion’s oldest sister also testified in 2014 that she never saw Robertson and her brother play together in the years leading up to his death. She said she heard Xzayvion’s leg “pop” while her brother was trying to get away from Robertson by crawling under a bed.
“It didn’t look like he was having fun,” the girl said of her brother during the incident, adding later that “nobody was smiling, nobody was laughing.”
Xzayvion told medical personnel he fell from a bunk bed, but the doctor who operated on the boy testified the broken femur was caused by a twisting of the bone, not a fall.
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that prosecutors can use testimony about the February 2012 incident, and three other alleged incidents of prior abuse, at Robertson’s trial.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Wednesday that Riley likely will be called as a witness at the trial to testify about the history of abuse suffered by Xzayvion.
“Lavaughn Riley has testified in these proceedings based on her own free will and without any deal whatsoever from the State,” Moore stressed in an email. “Naturally, there will come a day that plea discussions will happen, but none have occurred at this time.”
He added that Riley has not been told by the District Attorney’s Office that she could get a sentence that is less than life. “Counsel for Ms. Riley may have told her this, and this may very well end up being true, but there has been no plea discussions with the State at this point,” Moore wrote.
Robertson’s lead attorney, Jim Craig, noted Wednesday that Riley has admitted in court testimony that she beat her son on a previous occasion.
“Xzayvion’s hospital records from that incident, just months before his death, document the young man’s request that he be protected from his mother,” Craig added.
Robertson has court dates scheduled in March and July. Riley’s next court appearance is July 7.
Lagattuta said Riley’s fear of losing her children to the state prevented her from stopping Robertson’s alleged abuse of Xzayvion.
A former state child welfare investigator has testified in the case that a safety plan was put in place following an August 2010 incident that disallowed Robertson from coming into the boy’s home or disciplining him. Riley agreed to the plan.
Xzayvion told the investigator his father choked and punched him and put his head in a toilet during the incident.
The alleged incident is one that the state Supreme Court said a jury can hear about.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark concluded Xzayvion’s death was a homicide, finding he died of “overwhelming infection” caused by a ruptured bowel from blunt-force trauma to his abdomen. An autopsy showed 60 external signs of recent and past trauma, including a human bite mark.
Xzayvion’s oldest sister told deputies Robertson beat her brother with his fist the day before he died, according to an affidavit of probable cause. She also reported seeing Robertson bite the boy on a regular basis as a form of discipline, sheriff’s officials have said.