On Thursday, the second-degree murder trial of Davawn Robinson—who stands accused of strangling 39-year-old gay CUNY professor Edgard Mercado in 2009—ended in a mistrial.
Earlier in the week, the jury twice told Judge Daniel P. FitzGerald it was deadlocked, after beginning deliberations on December 14.
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. When Robinson testified, he said the death was an accident that occurred while the two men used a rope on Mercado during an erotic asphyxiation session.
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.
Mistrials are declared all the time, but coverage of the Robinson trial seems to indicate the jury was uncomfortable with the sexual elements of this case. One anonymous juror told GCN, “There was a sexual environment, but it was not clear what that meant.”
Is this the gay equivalent of “She was asking for it?”
Another juror told the judge he had an unspecified “conscientiously held belief” about the case that was making deliberations difficult. That same juror wept openly when Judge FitzGerald repeated his instructions that the jury must be convinced of Robinson’s guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.
Was that “belief” some kind of Christian doctrine that deemed both men somehow damaged or cursed by God?
Given that Robinson stole Mercardo’s cellphone and laptop, that forensic evidence indicated there’d been a struggle, and that Robinson admitted his original claim of self-defense was a lie, it’s hard to imagine how this could’ve ended in a mistrial. Except, perhaps, for the prejudices of the jury.
We hope we’re wrong.
GCN reports that the Manhattan district attorney’s office will retry the case.