Edgard Mercado was killed in his East Village apartment in 2009.
The convicted killer of Edgard Mercado could serve as much as 15 years in prison after a Manhattan judge sentenced him to a term of four-to-15 years in the 2009 strangling death.
“I am going to sentence you to the maximum, but the minimum will be four years,” said Judge Bruce Allen at the August 15 sentencing of Davawn Robinson, now 25.
In 2009, Robinson and Mercado, who was 39 at his death, met at Chi Chiz, a West Village gay bar since closed. They had drinks, purchased cocaine, and traveled by cab to Mercado’s East Village apartment. Once at the apartment, they used the cocaine and drank wine. What happened next was the central dispute at trial.
The prosecution, which was handled by John A. McConnell and Leila Kermani, two assistant district attorneys, charged that Robinson strangled Mercado to death as part of a robbery. Defense attorneys from the Legal Aid Society argued that Robinson accidentally killed Mercado during consensual sex that included erotic asphyxiation.
Jurors had to decide if Robinson was guilty of second-degree murder, which would mean he intended Mercado’s death, second-degree manslaughter, meaning he acted recklessly, or criminally negligent homicide. Jurors convicted Robinson on the manslaughter charge. His first trial ended in a mistrial after jurors could not reach a verdict.
At the sentencing hearing, Allen told Robinson that he saw the act as “very close to intentional homicide.”
“I don’t know what happened obviously, but you could have turned back at some point,” Allen said. “I believe that you are remorseful, but we have to live with our acts.”
Mercado’s sister wept uncontrollably as she read her statement and one from their parents.
“Why did this person have to take my brother’s life?” the sister asked. Robinson spoke, saying he felt “immeasurable guilt and extreme remorse” over the killing.
“To the family, I’ve been waiting for almost three years to be able to say that I’m sorry,” Robinson said.
Immediately following the killing, Robinson told police that he acted in self-defense when he killed Mercado. The claim that the death came during sex emerged at the trial. Police found no bondage toys or porn in Mercado’s apartment, and the rope that was used to kill him was a belt from a dance uniform he used for a class. When Robinson left the apartment, he took Mercado’s computer and cell phone.
The sentence means that Robinson will be eligible for parole after serving four years. He has been in jail since the killing and that time counts toward his prison sentence. He gets a parole hearing every two years while serving his sentence. If he has no serious infractions and cooperates in prison, he will receive a conditional release after serving two-thirds, or 10 years, of the sentence.
The trial arguments continued in statements the prosecution and defense made at the sentencing hearing.
“The defendant did this in one of the most brutal ways one human being can kill another,” Kermani said. “The defendant showed Edgard no mercy. He chose to keep going, he chose to keep on pulling even after Edgard was unconscious.”
Stephanie Kaplan, one of two attorneys who represented Robinson, read a long statement in which she twice called the killing a “sexual accident” and asked for minimum prison time.
“We must consider both parties’ involvement,” Kaplan said. “We cannot simply ignore the consensual nature of the acts that led to Mr. Mercado’s death… The consensual nature of the risky conduct drastically reduces Davawn’s culpability.”