Anthony Avalos: LA DA George Gascon slammed for dropping death penalty against couple who tortured boy to death

Former DA Jackie Lacey’s office had announced in 2019 that it was seeking the death penalty for defendants Heather Maxine Barron, 31, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 35. The duo was charged with 'torture and murder with the special circumstance of murder involving torture'


                            Anthony Avalos: LA DA George Gascon slammed for dropping death penalty against couple who tortured boy to death
DA George Gascon is not seeking th death penalty in the death of and Anthony Avalos (Getty Images, Lancaster Police Department)

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón sparked a major backlash following his Thursday, May 6, decision to drop his office's bid for the death penalty in the case of a woman and her boyfriend allegedly torturing and murdering her 10-year-old son.

Former District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office had announced in 2019 that it was seeking the death penalty for defendants Heather Maxine Barron, 31, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 35.

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The duo was charged with "torture and murder with the special circumstance of murder involving torture" in the June 2018 death of Barron's son Anthony Avalos. But Gascón's decision, which was announced on Thursday, means Barron and Leiva could face a maximum punishment of life without parole.

However, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami disagreed with DA's stand to walk back on seeking the death penalty.

"This is not based upon new evidence," Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said, the City News Service reported. "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."

It's worth noting that Hatami has ridiculed several of Gascón’s progressive policies that won him the position after last year’s racial injustice protests. The latter raised eyebrows when he said that "a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case," the News Service reported. 

Avalos was allegedly whipped, dropped on his head multiple times, and forced to ingest hot sauce, per court documents. His loved ones are now suing the county, accusing social workers with the DCFS of being negligent over reports of child abuse in the house, including that of two other children who lived there.

"At any given time, the Department of Children and Family Services serves more than 34,000 families and vulnerable children in Los Angeles County with an unwavering commitment to pursue child safety every day in our communities,'' DCFS responded in a statement, per the News Service. "Our 9,000 employees do not take this commitment lightly and look to do everything possible to safeguard the children in our care. All DCFS employees are held the highest standards to ensure that the public trust in our service is honored and maintained." 

DA George Gascon (Getty Images)

Social media, however, lashed out at Gascón following his decision to drop the death penalty in the tragic case, with some criticizing Governor Gavin Newsom for endorsing him in the past.

"Gavin Newsom endorsed George Gascón. By extension he endorsed hate crimes. He endorsed murder. Like all fascists Newsom feels that his way to power is to create a crisis only he can “solve.” This was Hitler’s way. This is Newsom’s way. We must reject it," political commentator Mike Cernovich tweeted.

"This is not the first case where prosecutors have objected to the death penalty being dropped as a potential punishment," LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva added.

"Gascon is the worst thing to happen to LA County since….damn I thought I could name something worse but I can’t!" another Twitter user wrote.

"Gascon is the best thing that has happened for criminals and the worst thing that has happened for victims. Criminals are getting out of jail early, getting charged with lesser crimes or worse not getting charged at all. Let’s get rid of Gascon," a third chimed in.