The accused killer of Edgard Mercado told a Manhattan jury that the 39-year-old gay man wanted to be strangled with a rope during sex and that the death was accidental.
“When he said he wanted it tight, I did just that,” Davawn Robinson testified on December 12. “When he wanted it rough, I did it rough.”
Robinson, 24, who has been alternately described as gay and bisexual, faces one second-degree murder count in the 2009 homicide. The Manhattan district attorney charges Robinson intended to kill Mercado, who was gay, when he strangled him in the older man’s East Village apartment.
The defense has said that Robinson never had the legally required intent to convict him of murder. In his statements to police and prosecutors, Robinson said he acted in self-defense when he killed Mercado. His testimony was the heart of a new defense –– that the death was an accident.
Questioned by Marnie L. Zien, one of his two Legal Aid Society attorneys, Robinson said he and Mercado met outside Chi Chiz, a now shuttered West Village gay bar. He purchased $180 of cocaine for Mercado, and the two then traveled by cab to Mercado’s Avenue C apartment. That part of Robinson’s story has generally been consistent.
At the apartment, they used cocaine and drank some wine. Mercado showed him how to use the rope, which was part of a uniform that Mercado wore in a Brazilian dance class. Police found no sex toys, pornography, or bondage equipment in Mercado’s apartment. Robinson stood behind Mercado holding the rope, which 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. “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.”
Robinson said he panicked. He 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.”
Robinson fled the apartment through Mercado’s bedroom window, taking the older man’s computer and cell phone with him. Police tracked Robinson to his New Jersey home through his own cell phone, with which he made the 911 call. He maintained the self-defense story when giving a videotaped statement to prosecutors and when talking to the lead detective on the case.
“I was just too afraid to say what really happened,” he said. “If I tell the truth, he’s not going to believe me anyway, so I just stuck with what I said.”
Leila Kermani, one of two assistant district attorneys who is prosecuting the case, kept Robinson on the stand for nearly two hours during her cross-examination. That allowed her to repeatedly point out the many elements of his statements that were lies or inconsistent with his testimony. She also emphasized how hard he worked at promoting the self-defense story.
“You wanted the operator to believe you?” Kermani asked, and Robinson responded, “That’s true.”
“So you chose words that would make it sound more believable?” she asked. Robinson said, “That’s true.”
Between fleeing Mercado’s apartment and the police locating him, Robinson penned a poem titled “I Killed a Man Dead” that also used the self-defense story. He gave that poem to police.
“And you wanted to make it sound like it came from the heart?” Kermani asked. “Yes,” Robinson said. “And you wanted to make it sound truthful?” Kermani asked, to which Robinson replied, “Yes.”
A significant problem that remains for the defense is that Robinson’s testimony does not explain the bruises and scrapes on Mercado’s head and arms. On December 8, a forensic pathologist from the city’s medical examiner’s office testified that those injuries were consistent with someone being in a fight.
The trial will continue on December 13.