Xzayvion Riley’s oldest sister calmly testified Friday that she saw the Baton Rouge boy’s father, Michael Anthony Robertson, discipline her brother by punching, but never saw them play together over the years leading up to his death in 2012 at age 8.
“Yes ma’am. A lot,” the soft-spoken, articulate 13-year-old replied when East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Leila Braswell asked if Robertson ever hit Xzayvion.
“Does punching count as hitting?” the girl inquired of the prosecutor, indicating Robertson would punch Xzayvion.
The girl also said her brother told her on more than one occasion that he was afraid of Robertson, whom she referred to as Tony. The girl said she feared Robertson “sometimes.”
The girl testified her mother, Riley, would discipline Xzayvion with a belt.
The girl’s testimony came on the fourth day of a hearing — three days of which were held in mid-July — in Robertson’s case. The hearing will resume in November when Robertson’s attorneys will call witnesses of their own.
At the conclusion of the hearing, state District Judge Don Johnson must decide whether to allow prosecutors to introduce at Robertson’s trial evidence of alleged incidents leading up to Xzayvion’s death.
Robertson allegedly put a belt to Xzayvion’s mouth in November 2008 and moved it from side to side, leaving abrasions; choked him and shoved his head into a toilet in August 2010, leaving more abrasions; broke his leg in February 2012; and punched him outside Brilliant Minds Learning Center in April 2012.
Xzayvion died June 12, 2012.
Robertson’s attorneys contend the alleged incidents are inadmissible and would only prejudice the jury.
Brilliant Minds director Evelyn Pierson, who began her testimony July 17, concluded it Friday by remembering Xzayvion as a boy with a big smile.
“That child smiled every day. I can’t smile right now. I can’t smile when I’m hurting,” she said.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark concluded Xzayvion’s death was a homicide, finding the boy died of “overwhelming infection” caused by a ruptured bowel from blunt-force trauma to his abdomen. An autopsy also showed 60 external signs of recent and old trauma, including abrasions, bruises and a human bite mark.
Robertson has denied any involvement in his son’s injuries, sheriff’s officials have said.
But Xzayvion’s oldest sister told deputies that Robertson beat her brother with his fist the day before he died, an affidavit of probable cause states. She also said she saw Robertson bite the boy on a regular basis as a form of discipline, sheriff’s officials have said.
Robertson was Lavaughn Riley’s boyfriend at the time of Xzayvion’s death. He also is the father of Xzayvion’s younger sister, but not of the 13-year-old.
The girl, who was accompanied to the 19th Judicial District Courthouse on Friday by her foster mother and little sister, testified Robertson would spend the night at their house. At times, she said, her mother would call Robertson and ask him to come over and discipline a misbehaving Xzayvion.
The girl acknowledged that her foster mother told her she could help her mother, Riley, if she testified in Robertson’s case. She also said her foster mom told her to tell the truth.
The girl testified she witnessed Xzayvion break his leg and said she heard it “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,” she said in response to a question from Braswell.
“Nobody was smiling. Nobody was laughing,” she added when Jim Craig, one of Robertson’s court-appointed attorneys, inquired about the alleged incident.
The girl insisted Xzayvion and Robertson weren’t playing around.
“I’ve never seen the two of them play together,” she said.