Courts

Decades-old death penalty appeal inches forward for Sacramento man who abducted, killed woman

PHOTO: CDCR via LA Times database

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The process surrounding a writ of habeas corpus filed in the mid-1990s by David Breaux, convicted of abducting and killing a woman during a string of robberies in Sacramento in 1984, has begun to slowly chug away again after COVID-19 halted it in its tracks earlier this year.

A writ of Habeas Corpus is a legal petition brought forward by a prisoner challenging their conviction or imprisonment. Under California law, prisoners must have filed all other possible appeals before turning to the writ. Inmate’s petitions have been granted on issues such as ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct in a lower court, or a new finding that the prisoner was incompetent to stand trial.

In a joint statement to a US District Court filed by lawyers for Breaux and the California Department of Justice, it was determined that a motion to depose Breaux will be filed in April of 2022. Following a meeting on November 3rd between both sides, the lawyers agreed that it would take months to review the voluminous number of records in the case, but agreed to try and push forward together.

“While the parties would not be able to depose Mr. Breaux at this time due to
COVID-19 restrictions, counsel agree that filing and arguing the motion is nevertheless one way counsel can continue to move this case forward,” the statement reads.

The end-goal for the motion to depose is an eventual evidentiary hearing to resolve some of Breaux’s claims raised in the writ, which include ineffective assistance of counsel, juror misconduct, and bailiff misconduct at his original trial. The petition has been in the court system for almost 30 years, initially filed by Breaux in an attempt to stay his execution, which would later be postponed anyway after Governor Newsom ordered a moratorium on the practice in California.

Breaux, 65, is held on death row at the San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco. A jury sentenced him to die following a conviction for the abduction and murder of Connie Decker in the mid-’80s during a string of robberies.

On June 17, 1984, prosecutors say, Breaux pulled a gun on Decker outside of a liquor store and took her into his car – just hours after he had attempted to do the same thing to a local cashier.

Later, when Breaux stopped at a Sacramento gas station in the woman’s red Corvette, with her in the passenger seat, Decker began to mouth “help me” to the attendant on-duty. When Breaux noticed her, he pulled her by her wrist back into the car and sped off.

Breaux then drove Decker to a vacant lot in Rancho Cordova, forced her into a dumpster behind a chain link fence, and shot her in the head. Later in the day, he switched Decker’s license plates with plates he stole off a laundry truck, and attempted to pay for gas with her credit card.

Two days later, when officers approached Breaux outside of his mother’s home, he took off to nearby McKinley Park, hid in the clubhouse, and shot at officers during a 45-minute standoff. He was eventually taken into custody after being shot in the arm and leg.

Breaux initially told investigators that he took Decker’s corvette on a joyride at gunpoint, but said a “Mexican hitchhiker” he picked up killed Decker and tossed her in a dumpster.

At trial, lawyers for Breaux said his heavy drug use and lack of sleep drove him into a paranoid, compulsive mental state. A psychiatrist working for the defense said Breaux kidnapped Decker to steal her car, put her in a dumpster to stop her from calling the police, injected cocaine, and killed her in a rage after she banged on the dumpster lid.

It was revealed at trial that, as Breaux was watching TV in the days after the murder, news of the discovery of Decker’s body was broadcast. When the newscast rolled across the screen, Breaux said “Oh, no, they’ve found her. They found her already. Damn. I thought it would take them longer to find her.”

According to a 2006 wire report by the Marin Independent Journal, Breaux and three others stabbed former Aryan Brotherhood hitman Curtis Price in the face, neck, and head on San Quentin’s exercise yard. The attack came after the man seemingly fell out with white supremacist gangs like the Brotherhood, as well as the Nazi Lowriders – which officials said the three men were a part of. Price expectedly died of natural causes earlier this year.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime and justice as well as issues of racial inequality. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822.

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