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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 16, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 50
Davawn Robinson jury remains deadlocked
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Davawn Robinson jury remains deadlocked

A Manhattan jury once again told Judge Daniel P. FitzGerald they were deadlocked in their deliberations over second-degree murder charges against Davawn Robinson in the 2009 strangling death of Edgard Mercado, a 39-year-old Gay man.

Deliberations began on December 14.

The jury weighed second-degree murder, which has a maximum sentence of 25-years-to-life, second-degree manslaughter, which has a maximum sentence of 15 years, and criminally negligent homicide, which carries a maximum of four years. A defendant who is convicted of either of the two lesser charges would be eligible for release after serving six-sevenths of the sentence, but a second-degree murder conviction requires at least 25 years in jail.

Before the jury returned to the courtroom after signaling their indecision on December 20, Annie Costanzo, one of Robinson's two Legal Aid Society attorneys, told FitzGerald that the continued deadlock was forcing an 'Allen charge,' a last ditch effort by a judge to press for a verdict by asking jurors in the minority to consider why the majority of their peers did not reach the same conclusion. Apparently unwilling to signal that he was at the end of his efforts to secure a verdict, the judge responded that he would issue a 'modified' Allen charge.

The prosecution's case relied almost entirely on the testimony of Dr. Rachel A. Lange, the forensic pathologist in the city medical examiner's office, who said that Mercado's injuries showed he had been in a fight.

While Leila Kermani, one of two assistant district attorneys prosecuting the case, said Robinson may have killed Mercado as part of a robbery and noted that Robinson stole Mercado's lap top computer and cell phone, the prosecution never established definitively what motivated Robinson. The prosecution is not required to prove motive, but jurors can consider it, or its absence, in their deliberations.

The prosecution charged that Robinson, who is 24 and also gay, intended to kill Mercado. The defense argued that Robinson never had the legally required intent to convict him of murder. The defendant first told police and prosecutors in written and videotaped statements that he acted in self-defense when he strangled Mercado in the older man's Avenue C apartment. When Robinson testified, he said the death was an accident that occurred during an erotic asphyxiation session.

Robinson told jurors that he and Mercado met at a West Village gay bar. The younger man said he purchased cocaine on Mercado's behalf and they then traveled to Mercado's East Village apartment where they used the cocaine and drank wine.

At the apartment, Robinson said, Mercado showed him how to use the rope, which was part of a uniform the older man wore in a Brazilian dance class. Police found no sex toys, pornography, or bondage equipment in Mercado's apartment. Robinson stood behind Mercado, he said, holding the rope that was wrapped around Mercado's neck and hands. At one point, he dropped the rope.

'When I let go, he slumped over to the side,' Robinson said during his December 12 testimony. 'At first, I was thinking he must be really messed up... I turned him over and I seen his face and I realized he was dead.'

In what he said was a panic, Robinson called 911 and spent 22 minutes telling the operator that he had killed a man in self-defense and was afraid that another man was coming to the apartment to kill him. He used the names Ted and Tony to identify that second man in various statements.

'I just made up a self-defense story,' Robinson told the jury. 'I just was lying. I'm just throwing everything out there.'

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