Emotional testimony from daycare owner prompts recess for pre-trial hearing

Emotional testimony from daycare owner prompts recess for pre-trial hearing

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - By: WAFB Intern Elizabeth Kuebel

After three days of emotional testimony, the court recessed the pre-trial hearing until August 4 for Michael Robertson, the man accused of beating his 8-year-old son to death. The decision was largely based on the testimony provided by the final witness of the day.

Evelyn Pierson, of Pierson's Brilliant Minds Learning Center, was one of four witnesses called to testify on Thursday, July 17. Before beginning her testimony, the defense requested Pierson the right to an attorney. They claimed her testimony could incriminate her.

Judge Don Johnson agreed with the defense and informed Pierson of her rights. She declined his offer, saying she did not have the funds to appoint her own attorney and believed a state-appointed one would not have her best interest at heart. She also said if she was doing something wrong or illegal at the time, she "deserves" to be discovered.

Pierson continued with her testimony, in which she was asked about her interactions with Robertson's son, Xzayvion Riley. She claimed she did witness Robertson punch Xzayvion four times in the chest with a closed fist while in the parking lot outside of Brilliant Minds.

"It wasn't a slap and it wasn't a tap," she said. "It was a punch."

Problematically, Pierson had a book in which she was ordered to document instances of abuse and injuries - including scratches, bruises and illnesses – of the children under her care. She never recorded the abuse she witnessed in her parking lot.

"When I saw him punched, he was out of my care," Pierson testified. "He was in his mother's care."

The defense alluded that Pierson also failed to record evidence of abuse on other occasions, such as scratches and bruises on Xzayvionn's body reportedly seen by witnesses. Pierson acknowledged the claims by stating that she was under the impression that if the abuse happened outside her daycare, she did not have to report it.

When the defense addressed her lack of documentation on the issue, Pierson became frustrated and refused to cooperate with the questioning.

"I'm tired of looking at you!" she screamed to defense attorney Elizabeth Coe. "You are trying to make me out of a liar and I don't like that at all."

Pierson's emotional state prompted Judge Johnson to call for the recess. Pierson is still under oath and therefore not allowed to communicate about the questions and statements made in her testimony.

Xzayvion lived with his mother, Lavaughn, at an apartment complex on Coy Avenue. His dad, Michael Robertson, was visiting when deputies said Lavaughn called for help on Tuesday, June 12. Xzayvion was taken to the hospital, but did not survive.

Detectives said hospital staff counted 56 marks on the little boy's body. The coroner's office is reporting Xzayvion had more than 60 external signs of recent and past trauma, which include cuts, bruises and adult size bite marks on his abdomen. Xzayvion also had an "overwhelming infection" due to blunt force trauma to the abdomen.

The autopsy revealed Xzayvion died due to a ruptured intestine caused by blunt force trauma to the stomach. According to the forensic pathologist, the injury was potentially treatable, if doctors had seen the victim when he complained of stomach pains.

At the time of Xzayvion's death, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services had an open and active case with the family. The department had been involved with the family in the past as a result of reports received. During its involvement with the family, DCFS provided services that included, but not limited to, intensive home based services, protective child care, coordination with community resources, as well as involvement with the courts. No decision has been made about whether or not a death sentence will be asked for if Robertson and Riley are convicted of first-degree murder.

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