That’s what a jury will have to decide in a trial that began Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court. Patricia A. Cave, 50, is charged with voluntary manslaughter while armed in the June 2 death of Lamont Warren, 36.
Prosecutors plan to use Cave’s words against her. After Cave was arrested, she told detectives in a videotaped interview — a portion of which was played for the seven-man, seven-woman jury — that when Warren visited her on the night he was killed, she allowed him to sleep in her bed while she smoked, drank and watched television in the living room.
When she returned to her bed, she told the detectives, she found Warren sprawled on top of her covers. “I said, ‘Can you get on the couch or just scoot over?’ ”
Cave said Warren refused to roll over and began berating her. Then, she said, he grabbed her by the throat and choked her. Cave said she reached for a knife on her nightstand, the two started wrestling and the knife plunged into Warren’s chest.
Cave had sought a restraining order against Warren months before the incident. In court records, Cave said Warren had hit her. Still, she said, they continued to see each other.
In Judge Robert E. Morin’s courtroom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Cobb described the couple’s relationship as “friends with benefits,” implying a nonexclusive sexual relationship.
Cobb told the jury that Warren knew he could persuade Cave to allow him back in her home with alcohol and cigarettes — which he brought over the night he was killed, Cave said in the video.
Warren “paid the price of admission” to get her to open her door, Cobb said.
Cobb told the jury that Warren had a violent past and even had cocaine and alcohol in his system when he was killed. But there was no sign of a struggle or fight between the two, Cobb said, and Cave had no injuries or scratches to her neck.
Cobb said Cave became angry at Warren and plunged the four-inch knife into her former boyfriend’s chest.
But Cave’s attorney, Santha Sonenberg of the District’s Public Defender Service, said that her client was defending herself.
“It wasn’t until Lamont had his hands around her neck did she grab the knife,” Sonenberg said. “If Ms. Cave had not grabbed that knife, Mr. Warren would have killed her.”
Cave sat at the defense table wiping tears with a tissue as Sonenberg argued on her behalf.