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Philadelphia woman gets state prison sentence for Lincoln University killing, stabbings

WEST CHESTER — The Philadelphia woman who stabbed three men during a dormitory brawl at Lincoln University, one of them fatally, was sentenced Monday to a term that will see her serve time in state prison, but far less than what authorities wanted.

Nydira Smith, 41, of East Mt. Airy, was sentenced by Common Pleas Court Judge Nichole Forzato to a total of 3 to 6 years behind bars for the assaults that ended a daylong violent dispute between her brother, Malik Stevens, who was a student at her own alma mater, and others on the campus.

mugshot of Nydira Smith
Nydira Smith

She had been found guilty after a jury trial in October of involuntary manslaughter, four counts of aggravated assault simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and possession of instruments of a crime. The sentence the judge handed down was far below what the prosecution had asked for, and much in line with the defense’s recommendation.

In dueling sentencing memorandums filed by the prosecution and defense attorneys, Smith’s actions the night of the brawl in the first-floor hallway of the Thurgood Marshall Living and Learning Center on the school’s southern Chester County campus was portrayed either as an accidental tragedy that she was forced into to protect herself or as a callous act of violence for which she showed no remorse and tried to avoid any responsibility for.

“Nydira Smith did not go to Lincoln University on Feb. 16, 2022, to engage in a fight of hurt anyone,” attorneys Vincent DiFabio of Tredyffrin and Gregory Pagano of Philadelphia argued in their memorandum. “She went to pick up her brother and called campus police while en route. She always carried a knife for protection purposes because she was (assaulted) when she was a young woman.”

The attorneys said that Smith was acting out of a sense of protection for her brother, who she thought had been threatened with harm during a series of encounters that day, and then later herself. She “was not the initial aggressor, as defined by statute,” they said. “Nydira was attacked and she defended herself against unlawful force.”

The two attorneys contended that the jury’s verdict — finding her guilty of involuntary manslaughter but not murder — showed the panel did not believe she acted with malice.

“The verdict, as to Jawine Evans, reflects that the jury believed that his killing was accidental,” the attorneys wrote.

As the counts of aggravated assault involved the two other students who were injured that night, Clifton Walker and Eric Dickerson, the defense attorneys noted that neither had actually sustained life-threatening stab wounds from Smith’s knife and that the jury had not even considered any hospital reports involving them.

They asked Forzato to sentence Smith — a woman with no prior record of crime and who had built a stable home and career in her native Philadelphia — to 39 months to 78 months in prison, rightly 3¼ to 6½ years. Because she has been held in Chester County since her arrest in February 2022, she should be given credit for just over two years behind bars.

The prosecution, on the other hand, asked Forzato to impose a maximum level sentence of 20 to 57 years in state prison, running sentences for each victim consecutively, arguing that she had voluntarily placed the three men she stabbed in danger the night of the incident, then took steps to absolve herself of any blame.

In her actions following the assaults and her testimony during her trial, Smith “demonstrated not only a complete lack of remorse for what she had perpetrated upon her victims but also a repeated, conscious, calculated and planned effort on her part to avoid criminal responsibility for her conduct,” said Deputy District Attorneys Bridget Gallagher and Justin Roberts in their memo.

Smith disposed of the knife she used after leaving Lincoln’s campus, discussed what story to tell police with her family, moved out of her home into a hotel to avoid detection, and began communicating on so-called “burner phones,” they said.

She showed that she had “no regard for the value of human life,” and speculated on the lasting “emotional and psychological damage” they suffered as a result of her violent actions.

“How either of these young men escaped without physical permanent disfigurement or dying themselves is nothing short of a miracle,” the prosecution wrote.

As for Evans, the prosecutors said that his life was cut short because of Smith’s actions. “The defendant will someday be paroled for her crime, but Jawine will not, and Jawine’s family will not. They were not able to come in front of the defendant and plead for mercy” or tell her what promise he had in life, as she was able to do.

“Without even knowing his name, the defendant handed down Jawine’s death sentence,” Gallagher and Roberts said.

Evans, 21, a senior at Lincoln, died after Smith stabbed him with a kitchen steak knife in the neck. The wound severed an artery and left him bleeding to death on a grassy yard outside the dorm where he and the other victims lived.

The prosecution had contended through the trial that Smith had no justification for wielding the knife that killed Evans and wounded Dickerson and Walker and that the needed intent to kill could have been formed in an instant, “like that,” said Gallagher, snapping her fingers in her closing.

Playing videos taken of the confrontation in the hallway of a Lincoln dorm, Gallagher said that they showed Smith holding the knife in her hand and intentionally stabbing Evans in the neck.

“Without the defendant, we all know how this fight would have ended,” Gallagher said. “It would have lasted for a couple of seconds and then everyone would have scattered.” Fights like this “don’t end in death.

“When you decide to hold a knife over your head and plunge it into someone’s neck, that is intent,” Gallagher said. “She wasn’t out of her mind. She knew what she was doing.”

The multiple confrontations that ultimately led to the stabbings by Smith began in the early morning hours of Feb. 16, 2022, and lasted through the day, all taking place in the first-floor hallway of the Thurgood Marshall Living and Learning Center, a coed dormitory on the grounds of the Lincoln campus in Lower Oxford.

The final confrontation began after Smith arrived on campus intending to pick Stevens up and take him home. In the first-floor hallway, she was in the middle of the two groups of men, and used her knife to “swing wildly” at the men she said had come to attack her brother. She wounded Evans in the neck, slashing an artery. When she did, he exclaimed “She stabbed me!” before staggering away and towards an exit door.

Evans was pronounced dead by first responders outside the dorm around 9:30 p.m.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

Source: Berkshire mont

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