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Gay Man’s Strangler Freed
Conviction nixed, Davawn Robinson pled out
BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
A New Jersey man who
was found guilty of
in the 2009
strangulation death of a 39-yearold
gay man in the East Village was
released from prison after a state
appeals court found that the judge
in the case violated the defendant’s
constitutional rights during jury
“On the merits, we believe that a
reversal is warranted,” a fi ve-judge
panel wrote last year about the
trial of Davawn Robinson who was
convicted in 2012 in the death of
Edgard Mercado. “After questioning
of the jurors is complete, each
party, starting with the People,
may challenge the jurors for cause.
After both parties have been given
the opportunity to make cause
challenges, the court must allow
them to peremptorily challenge any
remaining prospective juror.”
The judges found that when
Bruce Allen, the judge in the Robinson
case, permitted prosecutors
to go out of order with a peremptory
challenge, or a challenge that does
not need a reason, on one juror, he
violated Robinson’s rights.
“‘The right of peremptory challenge
given to an accused person is
a substantial right,’ and the order
in which peremptory challenges
are made ‘is matter of substance’
‘intended for the benefi t of the defendant,’”
the judges wrote.
Robinson, now 32, was originally
charged with one count of
second-degree murder in the killing.
He and Mercado met at a West
Village gay bar in September 2009.
They traveled by cab to Mercado’s
East Village apartment after having
purchased cocaine. Prosecutors
said that the likely scenario
was that Mercado caught Robinson
stealing his money and Robinson
then strangled him to death.
“The cash didn’t get up and walk
out of his wallet on its own,” said
Leila Kermani, a prosecutor who
tried the case in 2012. “The evidence
strongly suggests that Edgard
caught the defendant stealing…
He was caught and that’s
when he formed the intent to kill.”
Arrested at his New Jersey home
two days later, Robinson fi rst told
police that he had acted in selfdefense.
In the moments after the
killing, he called 911 and spent 22
minutes telling a 911 operator that
he had acted in self-defense. He
gave a long video statement to police
saying the same thing.
During the trial, Robinson’s story
changed when he took the stand.
He testifi ed that Mercado’s death
came during rough sex after the
older man asked him to choke him.
Robinson choked Mercado with
a belt that was part of a uniform
the older man wore in a Brazilian
dance class. Police found nothing
in Mercado’s apartment that indicated
he enjoyed sado-masochism
or asphyxiation during sex. Two
pathologists from the city’s medical
examiner’s offi ce said that his injuries
were not consistent with consensual
sex. The defense asserted
that Robinson was following Mercado’s
lead during asphyxiation.
“Davawn was a bondage virgin,”
Stephanie Kaplan, one of the Legal
Aid Society attorneys who represented
Robinson said. “He didn’t
know what to do… In fairness,
there was a reliance on Edgard.”
Robinson’s fi rst trial in 2011 ended
in a mistrial with jurors being
unable to decide among a seconddegree
murder charge, a seconddegree
manslaughter charge, and
a criminally negligent homicide
charge. Jurors in the 2012 trial
appear to have compromised and
essentially split the difference. He
was sentenced to four to 15 years
in prison and he was eligible for parole
after four years.
After his conviction was overturned,
he was remanded for retrial.
This January, in a deal with
the Manhattan district attorney’s
offi ce, he pleaded guilty to seconddegree
manslaughter. He received
an unconditional discharge, which
means he was freed without parole
supervision, but he has a criminal
record. Robinson was remanded
in 2009, so he served roughly 10
years for the Mercado killing.
GayCityNews.com | July 18 - July 31, 2019 21