A mistrial was declared today in the murder trial of Fantasy Decuir and Lamonte Mims in San Francisco Superior Court.
The pair were accused of robbing and killing photographer and film location scout Ed French, 71, at Twin Peaks overlook in July 2017.
The jury of five men and seven women reported they were deadlocked as to a count of first-degree murder. The foreperson, juror #12, told the court that they had taken “at least seven or eight” votes with respect to Ms Decuir’s guilt and had become “hopelessly deadlocked”.
They also reported being deadlocked as to Mr Mims.
The broad daylight, caught-on-camera killing of the defenseless senior shocked residents for its senselessness and brutality.
The pair will face a retrial.
Speaking outside Department 28 today the victim’s partner Brian Higginbotham lamented the failure of the jury to reach a verdict as to Decuir and Mims.
“They are both guilty of first degree murder,” he said. “They killed Ed in cold blood and went on almost to commit another murder less than two weeks later.”
“I’ve been coming since August of 2017, so I’ve been here going on for 80 times for arraignments – different judges, different district attorneys, different defense attorneys – so it’s just disheartening.”
While they did not dispute that their client fired the shot that killed Mr French, defense attorneys argued that, at the time of the killing, Ms Decuir was in a “sickle cell crisis” and suffering from opiate painkiller withdrawal.
They added that Ms Decuir had a low IQ, a “lack of adaptive functioning” and suffers from stress and anxiety. As a consequence, they said, she did not act “consciously” when firing the gun.
She was “unaware of what is going on,” attorney Mark Iverson told the jury, “She is moving, but without conscious thought.”
Summing-up, prosecutor Heather Trevisan dismissed claims of lack of consciousness: “making a plan with someone else to go to a target-rich environment [and] to leave [Mr French] alone to die on the street while you go to fence the camera” suggested to the contrary, she said.
On the fourth full day of deliberation, the jury, having told the court they were “at an impasse,” returned to the courtroom to hear brief additional argument on the issue of consciousness.
“[W]as the severity of the opioid withdrawal…so severe it was blocking out…the world around her?” prosecutor Aaron Laycook asked the jury.
“Being in pain and making a bad decision isn’t the same [as being] in so much pain that you are making no decisions. No one has said you can be suffering from that amount of pain and driving around [and] pulling a gun and putting a bullet center mass on target.”
For Ms Decuir, Mark Iverson reminded jurors that, as he saw it, “in the early months of July, you have an interplay of a serious disease and the interaction with opiate withdrawal amplifies the pain.”
On the fifth day of deliberations the jury was reread the testimony of an expert witness on the issue of opioid painkillers.
In court just before she declared a mistrial. Superior Court Judge Alexandra Robert Gordon questioned each juror individually to ensure they all felt that further deliberations or assistance from the court would not be fruitful.
One juror spoke of “personal tension” among those deliberating.
With respect to Mr French’s death, the only guilty verdicts arising from the day’s events, that the jury could agree, related to Mims: a single count of ‘second degree robbery’ and a count of ‘contempt of court’ – because, by being on Twin Peaks, he violated a stay-away order previously imposed.
The pair were both found not guilty of ‘inflicting injury on an elder’ as regards Mr French. The reading of this verdict for Ms Decuir caused a member of the French family to immediately leave the courtroom.
Decuir and Mims were found guilty of various charges relating to the robbery of tourists to San Francisco that took place on July 28.
Six days before the killing, Lamonte Mims, already on felony probation, was released on bail by Judge Sharon Reardon after being arrested for gun possession and parole violations.
In making her release decision, Judge Reardon had the benefit of a risk assessment prepared via an algorithm – however staff at the SF Pretrial Diversion Project said that they inputted incorrect data, resulting in a ‘release’ recommendation.
According to its website the Pretrial Diversion Project was founded “under the premise that the goals of community safety and restoration could be achieved by focusing on individual development, education and public service.”
Mr Higginbotham paid tribute to his partner at the conclusion of the hearing.
“Ed was amazing. He was born and raised here in San Francisco. He was ‘Mr San Francisco,’ the nicest person. He loved the city he took pictures for a living that showed how beautiful San Francisco is, and filmed commercials, and to be up there on that Sunday morning, for this to happen and for there to be no consequences so far – I could almost start crying here. We’ll get justice.”
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