In July 2017, two people robbed and killed photographer Edward French at the Twin Peaks lookout in San Francisco. Although they allegedly had the murder captured on video, the recent trial against the two suspects ended in a hung jury.
Edward French was a 71-year-old photographer and a film location scout. On July 16, 2017, he was taking sunrise photos from Twin Peaks when two people attacked him. A police spokesperson at the time said that a young man and woman approached him, stole his camera, and shot him.
The photographer was found unconscious by a passing jogger, who began administering CPR. French was soon rushed to a hospital, but he didn’t survive.
According to the reports at the time, 19-year-old Lamone Mims, and 20-year-old Fantasy Decuir of San Francisco were found guilty of the crime. They were arrested several weeks later and charged with the murder. KTVU reported at the time that they were caught due to leads from an armed robbery on July 28, when they attacked a 53-year-old man and 33-year-old woman.
The prosecution also said that the pair had French’s murder on video. As The Bay Area Reporter writes, the video shows Decuir shooting the photographer after Mims took his camera.
On May 22, 2023, Mims was convicted of second-degree robbery in relation to French, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict for Decuir on the same charge, with a vote of 10-2. The jury hung on the murder charges, voting 10-2 in favor of convicting Mims and Decuir of murdering Ed French. However, a unanimous verdict is required for conviction.
Mims’ attorney Paul Demeester, told the Bay Area Reporter that his client “was not the one who shot Mr. French, as can be clearly seen on the video.”
“It was Fantasy Decuir who clearly shot Mr. French on Sunday morning at Twin Peaks. Mims may only be found guilty of felony murder — first-degree murder — if the person was a major participant, which we conceded, and acted with reckless indifference.”
Decuir’s attorney Mark Iverson quoted medical issues. He claims that Decuir suffers from sickle-cell disease; she’d reportedly received high doses of an opioid medication before the murder, which led to nullified culpability.
“What was shown in evidence was that Fantasy was in the hospital for some days — as late as the afternoon of July 14 — and she was given intravenously heavy doses of pain medication, Dilaudid, and that’s way up there in terms of pain medication, and a number of attending physicians testified about the treatment she received in the week leading up to July 16, when Mr. French was killed.
The legal defense of unconsciousness we presented on behalf of Ms. Decuir involved the interaction of the extreme pain Ms. Decuir experienced during that time from her sickle-cell disease and the large amounts of opiates prescribed and administered to her to relieve her pain. Her ability to manage this medical crisis and her withdrawal from opiates was severely compromised by her intellectual disability.”
French’s family reactions: “It was disbelief”
Edward French’s sister, Lorrie French, was shocked by the trial results. “You don’t want to know what my thoughts were,” she told The Bay Area Reporter. The photographer’s partner Brian Higginbotham, said that he was in disbelief. “Let’s not forget they killed him in July, [police] caught them in August, and in two months it’ll be six long years we’ve been waiting,” he told The Bay Area Reporter. “There’s video, there’s audio and there’s a compelling witness statement. … We’re all very upset, there’s a lot of people following this case.”
Lorrie French and Higginbotham recalled the defense bringing in a medical expert who claimed that Decuir’s sickle-cell disease led her to think that “she was dreaming and didn’t realize she killed someone.” French called it “laughable,” claiming that there was no way Decuir was unconscious.
What happens next?
As I didn’t know what happens when the jury is hung, I looked it up. As FIJA explains, in the case of a hung jury, the judge may ask the jurors to continue deliberating, usually for a limited number of times. If the jury still cannot reach a verdict, the judge will eventually declare a mistrial due to the hung jury. It’s worth noting, though, that mistrials can occur for other reasons as well.
During a mistrial, the defendant is neither convicted nor acquitted. An acquittal occurs when a “not guilty” verdict is reached and cannot be challenged by the prosecution, overturned by the judge, or retried. However, in the case of a mistrial, there is a possibility for the case to be retried.
Thankfully, this trial continues, and the next hearing in the case is scheduled for July 7.