Manslaughter, not murder, conviction in gay man’s death
BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | After deliberating for roughly a day, a Manhattan jury found Davawn Robinson guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the 2009 killing of Edgard Mercado.
Jurors weighed second-degree murder, based on the prosecution’s argument that Robinson, 25, intended to kill the 39-year-old Mercado when he strangled him to death in the older man’s East Village apartment. They also considered second-degree manslaughter, which requires the jury to find that he acted recklessly; and criminally negligent homicide.
The maximum penalty for second-degree manslaughter is up to 15 years in prison, with the inmate eligible for release after serving six-sevenths of that time, or just under 13 years. Robinson has been in jail since the 2009 killing, and that time counts toward his prison sentence.
The prosecution said that Robinson killed Mercado in the course of a botched robbery. The prosecutors, John McConnell and Leila Kermani, had a great deal of physical evidence in the case, but it largely relied on the testimony of Dr. Jason Graham, a deputy chief medical examiner in the city’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner. He concluded that the multiple hemorrhages, ligature abrasions, bruises and fractures that Mercado suffered resulted from a fight.
“I would not expect to see these injuries in someone who is engaging in consensual sexual practice,” Graham said on June 18. The next day he said, “Taken together, this indicates a great deal of motion and I think would be highly consistent with a struggle.”
Robinson, who testified in the case, claimed that Mercado died when they were engaged in erotic asphyxiation as part of sex. The two men met in the West Village at Chi Chiz, a West Village bar since closed. They drank and purchased cocaine. At Mercado’s East Village apartment, they used the cocaine and drank more. Robinson said that Mercado asked him to strangle him.
Police found no bondage pornography or equipment in Mercado’s apartment. The rope that Robinson used to strangle Mercado was part of a uniform that the older man wore during a Brazilian dance class.
After killing Mercado, Robinson made a 22-minute call to 911 during which he claimed to have acted in self-defense. He fled the apartment, taking Mercado’s computer and cell phone with him.
Police traced Robinson to his New Jersey home the next day, and he continued to claim that he acted in self-defense in written, oral and videotaped statements. It was at his first trial last year, which ended in a mistrial, that he claimed the death was an accident during sex.
Robinson was represented by two Legal Aid Society attorneys, Marnie Zien and Stephanie Kaplan. They asked the jury to convict Robinson of criminally negligent homicide, the least severe of the three possible verdicts.
The jury began deliberating late on June 26 and returned their verdict toward the end of the day on June 27.