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Case update: The murder of Ed French
Media coverage may have kept San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin from removing special circumstances in film location scout's callous killing — for now
When Lorrie French, sister of film location scout Ed French, and Ed’s longtime partner, Brian Higginbotham, got word that San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin wanted to meet with them and the defense attorneys for Ed’s killers regarding possible plea deals, alarm bells went off. Lorrie, who grew up in the Mission District with Ed and their three other siblings, immediately began reaching out to the media. On Feb. 9, 2022, Lorrie appeared on “The San Francisco Experience” podcast in a hard-hitting segment where she called out Boudin for even considering dropping the special circumstances or reducing the charges against Fantasy Decuir of San Francisco and Lamonte Mims of Patterson, Calif., who were 20 and 19 years of age respectively at the time of the murder. That was something previous SFDA George Gascon had promised the family he would not do, as I wrote last month.
Those special circumstances — homicide committed during a robbery — arose from a rock solid case caught on video in the early morning hours of July 16, 2017. While photographing the sunrise from Twin Peaks, French was approached by Mims and Decuir and robbed of his camera at gunpoint. In video later obtained by the San Francisco Police Department, Decuir is seen shooting French even though Mims, who is restraining French, had already stolen the camera. Afterward the two flee, but Mims returns to grab the camera bag and is then seen kicking French as he lies dying on the ground.
Two weeks later, on the morning of July 28, Decuir and Mims committed another armed robbery at St. Mary’s Cathedral Square where a male and a female victim were robbed of their cameras and wallets. Investigators from SFPD’s Northern Station Investigation Team were able to identify the suspects and, with additional information developed by investigators from the SFPD Homicide Detail, it was discovered they were also the suspects in the Ed French murder.
Between the video and statements from the suspects, there was no doubt who French’s killers were. Mims told investigators he held the gun in the second robbery because “he didn’t want Fantasy to kill someone else.” But Mims, obviously, is no saint here either, having kicked French as he lay dying after Decuir’s fatal shot. As seems to be the case more and more often these days, both suspects already had long criminal records despite their young ages.
Court records reveal that Mims was arrested while sitting in a vehicle in San Francisco’s Bayview District around 2:30 a.m. on July 4, 2017, for possessing a 9 mm Ruger and a .38 special handgun. On July 7, he was formally charged, and on July 11, he appeared in a San Francisco courtroom before Judge Sharon Reardon, where the controversial Pretrial Diversion Project Public Safety Assessment Tool (PSA) gave Mims a faulty risk score that understated the danger he posed to the public. Mims was already on felony probation after an arrest that past November for breaking into cars at Twin Peaks. He did three months in jail and was given a stay-away order for the popular tourist destination. He also did jail time in San Mateo, but because the dozens of other counties using the PSA tool didn’t have the ability to talk to each other, it wasn’t figured into the score. Judge Reardon was by no means bound by the PSA score, even stating that Mims was “dangerous.” Perhaps she didn’t spend any time looking at his priors — he violated two probations, was a convicted felon, and had a recent gun charge when she released him. Just five days later, he and Decuir robbed and murdered Ed French.
Mims and Decuir were each held on $5 million bail, and the case was in the very capable hands of assistant district attorney and head of homicide Michael Swart, but when Gascon left to run for Los Angeles District Attorney and Chesa Boudin took over, he fired Swart, along with half a dozen other experienced prosecutors. Lorrie told Boudin at the time she was unhappy with his decision. “Swart was ready to go to trial. Once Boudin fired him, everything came to a standstill. The DA’s office is just an extension of the public defender. If you don’t go along with Chesa you will get fired, so everyone is scared,” Lorrie said.
Five years and over 45 arraignments later, Lorrie and Brian are still waiting for justice to be served. The attorney representing Mims, Paul Demeester, has appeared before two judges asking that the murder charge be thrown out under Senate Bill 1437, a law written by Boudin’s current chief of staff, Kate Chatfield, that changed the felony murder rule, allowing accomplices to seek lesser sentences based on claims they weren’t active participants. Both requests were denied. “You say you weren’t an active participant,” one of the judges said. “I watched the video three times and you kicked the man while he was dying.” Even Judge Brendan Conroy, who currently works on resentencing felony murder cases with the SFDA’s office, said Mims was equally culpable.
BOUDIN AWARE OF FAMILY’S OPPOSITION
Despite denials from two judges to remove Mims’s special circumstances under Chatfield’s SB 1437, the assistant DA currently assigned to the case, Heather Trevisan, informed Lorrie and Brian that Boudin wanted to meet with them on Feb. 24 to “go over the requests of the defense attorneys.” In a bizarre conflict of interest, Chatfield would also be present at the meeting. Trevisan told the family that Boudin “didn’t need their approval” and could unilaterally change the charges based on “what he thinks is just.”
The Feb. 24 meeting was later canceled, with Trevisan stating Boudin was aware of the family’s position. “As we discussed, the DA has stated that at this time he is making no plea offers and taking no action on the defense requests,” Trevisan said. “He is not getting rid of the murder charge nor striking the allegations. Because of this there will not be a need for a meeting with you and all of your brother’s supporters.” But she also added, “Should anything change we will of course let you know and give you the opportunity to be heard.”
On March 8, 2022, during a Zoom hearing under the new judge on the case, Christopher Hite, Demeester requested a speedy trial, as did French’s family. Hite set the trial for April 22, 2022. Decuir’s attorney, Mike Iverson, then requested a copy of all murder cases going back to 2011 under the new Racial Injustice Act (Judge Hite, Lorrie says, seemed “taken aback’).
On Aug. 28, 2020, the California senate approved Assembly Bill 2512, which amends California’s death penalty intellectual disability statute to prohibit the use of race-based IQ adjustments in determining a defendant’s eligibility for the death penalty. On Aug. 31, 2020, the senate and the state assembly approved and sent amended versions of a statewide Racial Justice Act to combat racial discrimination in criminal prosecutions and sentencing to Governor Gavin Newsom, which he signed into law on Sept. 30, 2020.
Judge Hite indicated he need time to review the law, and scheduled a hearing for March 29, 2022, to issue his response. Hite did appear to be leaning toward opposing Iverson’s request, noting it would create yet another delay and that he was unsure how the law pertained to the French case. Lorrie doesn’t see how it pertains to her brother’s case, either. And, as she told me previously, it seems Mims and Decuir are running the show. “It’s like they’re the king and queen and we are all just pawns,” she said. At least Ed French’s family and friends can take solace in Boudin backing down from entertaining any possible plea deals for Mims and Decuir… for now.