Death penalty dropped for Lancaster mother, boyfriend charged with murder and torture of Anthony Avalos


The death penalty has been taken off the table for a Lancaster mother and her boyfriend charged with murder and torture in the death of the woman’s 10-year-old son Anthony Avalos. 

Avalos was found unresponsive in June of 2018 after his mother called 911 saying he had suffered a fall in their apartment. He died the following morning.

Authorities later said they discovered evidence of abuse and torture in the case and arrested Avalos’ mother Heather Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva.

Prosecutors initially planned to pursue death penalty sentences in the case, but that has changed under new Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who unveiled a series of criminal justice reforms once sworn into the post.

Barron and Leiva now face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Some of Avalos’ family members say they will never receive full justice in his killing now that the death penalty has been removed.

A spokesperson for Gascón issued the following statement defending the decision Friday:

California hasn’t had an execution since 2006, and there’s now a moratorium on executions. Seeking death in these cases subjects victims to decades of appeals–forcing them to relive their trauma repeatedly–for a sentence that will simply never be imposed. It is also extremely expensive, with California spending over $5 billion on the death penalty since 1978–a cost to taxpayers of nearly $400 million per execution. The death penalty has also been shown to be racist in its application, and it has never been shown to be a deterrent to crime. Finally, the death penalty is irreversible, and just last week DNA and fingerprint evidence in an Arkansas case identified someone other than the man executed by the state in 2017.

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