National News

Drugged Killer of Aspiring Actress Found Guilty of Manslaughter

Posted May 7, 2018 7:15 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — A man who fatally stabbed his girlfriend during a drug-fueled frenzy was convicted Monday of manslaughter after a bench trial, but acquitted of the top charge of murder.

Lamar Davenport, 33, ingested phencyclidine, known as PCP, the night of the attack, in August 2015. He then used a hunting knife to stab his girlfriend, E’Dena Hines, 25 times as he raved about demons on the street near her apartment in Washington Heights.

Davenport’s bizarre pronouncements and his use of the potent hallucinogen were a key part of the four-week trial in front of Justice Ellen N. Biben of state Supreme Court in Manhattan. He waived his right to a jury and let Biben decide his fate.

During closing arguments last week, a defense lawyer, Annie Costanzo, said that her client had become convinced under the influence of the drug that Hines’ body was inhabited by a demon. He was too addled, she argued, to form the intent to harm her.

The prosecution countered that Davenport’s supernatural delusions and use of PCP could not excuse the killing. His deadly actions had been “unquestionably intentional,” the assistant district attorney, Christopher Prevost, told the judge.

Just before noon Monday, Biben announced that she had found Davenport not guilty of murder but guilty of first-degree manslaughter. She offered no insight into her verdict. The first-degree manslaughter conviction carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison. Davenport is scheduled to be sentenced on May 29.

Hines, 33, was related by marriage to Morgan Freeman, the Academy Award-winning actor. She played the part of a receptionist in one of his movies, “5 Flights Up.” Prosecutors said she had a “passionate, turbulent and volatile” relationship with Davenport.

Defense lawyers said the two had a history of using PCP, also called angel dust. On the night of the killing, Costanzo said, the two had returned to Hines’ apartment on West 162nd Street after an outing downtown and “did what they always did — got high together.”

Shortly before 3 a.m. Davenport left the apartment, followed by Hines. Video cameras captured parts of what happened next. Witnesses said that as he stabbed Hines, Davenport shouted “release the demons” and “I love you, I always loved you, God would want this.”

Police officers said Davenport appeared to be praying when they arrived. While in custody in the hours after the stabbing, Davenport told the police that he did not know why he was at a precinct and later stated: “Jesus Christ is the savior. The devil is evil. The devil is full of lies. Repent for your sins.” Court documents added that at one point Davenport awoke after sedation and shouted: “Oh no, God. Why God? Why did this happen?”

Costanzo said her client had suffered a psychotic break and was experiencing a “religious-themed delusion,” in which he believed demons were inside Hines. He was not cognizant enough to have had a conscious intent to kill her, she said, and so could not be found guilty of murder. But, she said, he had made a “reckless decision to get high,” which led to Hines’ death.

“The death of Ms. Hines was not an intended consequence of his acts,” she said. “When Lamar Davenport was stabbing E’Dena Hines he was trying to release demons.”

In his summation, Prevost told Biben that even though Davenport had ingested PCP, he had still acted with a “conscious objective” to kill Hines.

Davenport had been focused “on the task at hand,” Prevost said, knocking Hines to the ground, pinning her and stabbing her 14 times in the back before turning her over and continuing the onslaught.

“He knew it was a human body he held down and he knew it was E’Dena Hines,” Prevost told the judge, adding, “He must have perceived what the knife was inflicting, the blood, the struggle for life.”

After Biben delivered the verdict, Davenport showed no visible emotion. Costanzo bent down and rubbed his shoulder before he was led from the room in handcuffs. Hines’ mother, Deena Adair, left the courtroom a moment later, clutching the arm of a companion and silently declined to comment with a shake of the head.