Jury Finds Garcia Zarate Not Guilty In Steinle Murder Trial: My Initial Reaction

zarate and steinle

Garcia Zarate (left) and his victim Kate Steinle (right)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF & AP) — Jurors Thursday afternoon acquitted the illegal immigrant accused of killing Kate Steinle as she walked with her father on a crowded San Francisco pier of all charges except for felony possession of a firearm.

A spokesperson for the Superior Court of California made the announcement that the jury had reached a verdict shortly after 3 p.m. Shortly after 4:30 p.m., the shocking verdict was announced that Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was found not guilty of all charges except for the gun possession charge.

Jurors have been deliberating on the case since Tuesday, November 21, after prosecutors and defense attorneys finished their arguments whether Garcia Zarate was a hapless homeless man who killed Steinle in a freak accident or a calculated murderer intent on playing a sick game.

CBS SF Bay Area

Jurors have found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty of killing Kate Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco in July 2015 in the trial that sparked a national debate over illegal immigration.

Jurors reached the decision Thursday in the sixth day of deliberations after first receiving the case last week.

Zarate was found not guilty of first and second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. He was also found not guilty of assault with a semi-auto weapon. He was found guilty of count two – possession of a felon with a firearm.

Steinle was walking with her father and a family friend in July 2015 when she was shot, collapsing into her father’s arms. Zarate had been released from a San Francisco jail about three months before the shooting, despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him for deportation.

Fox News

I started writing a story about this but I realized I was too angry and too heartbroken to concentrate. I have been following this story and it is just astonishing that the jury came to this verdict. This is exactly why I have “issues” with these so-called “sanctuary cities.” Garcia Zarate has seven felony convictions. Seven! He was in possession of a stolen handgun, which in and of itself is a crime for a convicted felon. The defense says the .40 caliber handgun “just went off.” I’ve been handling firearms for a long time and they don’t just “go off” spontaneously.

When I’m upset, I process by writing, but this one is over the top. A 32-year-old woman walking with her Dad on Pier 14 was gunned down and collapsed in her Father’s arms. As a Dad to a daughter and a Grandpa to a granddaughter, I am grief stricken and absolutely outraged. I’m going to need some time to process this before I write in order to process this. I’ve written on social issues here in the past with varying results, but like I said, this one is off the scale.

Our justice system says that the jury’s decision must be respected and I can only hope the prosecution files an appeal. If not, then in my opinion, Zarate gets away with murder and San Francisco is his sanctuary city protecting him from experiencing any consequences for his crime. Is this really the ideal we’re striving for here?

Addendum: Having had some time to mull over this issue, I have authored a more thoughtful response to this issue I present for your consideration: Sanctuary and the Death of Kate Steinle.

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17 thoughts on “Jury Finds Garcia Zarate Not Guilty In Steinle Murder Trial: My Initial Reaction

  1. I live in San Francisco and I’m proud that it is a sanctuary city. That said, I, too, was disturbed by the verdict in this case. Politics aside, from everything I’ve read, the man committed murder. But men commit murders every day across America, both in and not in sanctuary cities. And the murder rate by committed by American citizens is much higher than the murder rate committed by illegal aliens. I blame lax gun laws for such murders, not whether or not they occurred in a sanctuary city.

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    • I used to live in the Bay Area, including the City, back in the late 1970s and early 80s. To me, this isn’t an issue of an undocumented immigrant from Mexico shooting a woman, but of a seven time felon who broke into a Federal Park Ranger’s vehicle and took his firearm and then, through what ever process, caused it to discharge, killing an innocent person (who could have been anyone including a child). Involuntary manslaughter doesn’t seem like an unreasonable verdict in this case. Lax gun laws, at least in this instance, have nothing to do with it.

      I recently looked up California’s gun laws and they are some of the strictest in the nation, especially compared to Idaho where I live now.

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    • You’re “proud” that your city is in rebellion against the laws of the USA and their fully legitimate authority? In this country, we have legitimate means of modifying laws where appropriate. Flouting national law is not a legitimate protest, and its consequences not too long ago included attempted secession and a very bloody civil war. I hope you realize that is what you’re advocating with a statement like that. US immigration control laws are not draconian, nor contrary to human rights; as were prior laws justifying slavery, for example. US authorities have every right and responsibility to repel and expel foreign invaders when they refuse to comply with US law. When those foreign invaders also have already a history of harmful behavior, the justification is even greater.

      Nonetheless, this case is not about immigration law, nor about gun control, nor about crime rates among one or another demographic. It *is* about personal responsibility for specific behaviors by an individual, regardless of who he is. Are we to believe some highly improbable story such as that the accused was merely strolling along the pier, stumbled across a gun left lying on the ground by some unknown party who had stolen it from a Federal Park Ranger’s vehicle miles away, picked it up, maybe dropped it, and it automatically discharged a bullet that ricocheted into the back of an innocent woman passing by? Given a choice between multiple possible scenarios for how the shooting occurred, and presuming that the facts presented in news accounts are accurate, that would not be my first, most likely, selection. If I had been on the jury, I would, of course, have been very interested in any evidence such as the location of any fingerprints of the accused on the weapon, or the patterns of residue left on his hands or clothing after the weapon fired, or evidence connecting him with the vehicle from which it was stolen.

      I dislike news stories that I cannot fairly evaluate due to incomplete or inaccurate or deliberately-slanted reporting. I dislike attempts to manipulate my sense of outrage over some apparent injustice. This case seems to me far-too-heavily freighted with political baggage.

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      • I am not trying to manipulate your sense of outrage. I just see things differently from you. I think it makes sense that, when an undocumented alien witnesses a crime and wishes to cooperate with the police, that immigrant should not have to fear being turned over to ICE by the local authorities. You say that there are “legitimate means of modifying laws where appropriate,” but our lawmakers have been trying — and failing — for years to come up with immigration reform. It’s crazy for you to equate sanctuary cities with secession that led to the Civil War. That is nonsensical. States have varying laws on matters such as gun control, abortion, and even marijuana. The use of marijuana is still a federal crime, but do you think that the local police in states where marijuana use has been legalized should apprehended and turn over recreational marijuana uses to federal authorities?

        This crime was a tragedy, of that there is no doubt. But just because the perpetrator was an undocumented alien doesn’t mean that his right to a trial by jury should be denied. I wasn’t on the jury, so I don’t know what compelled the jury to find the way they did. And neither do you.

        Due process was followed in this case, and while I’m disappointed in the outcome, I am proud that San Francisco has taken a stand against an overzealous federal government that should have passed reasonable immigration reform laws years ago, but has been unable to do so.

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      • @Fandango — It was not toward you that I directed my comment about manipulation, but toward the news media. And Federal law enforcement within ICE is not overzealous, but merely trying to enforce what has been already determined to be reasonable immigration control. One cause of reform-effort failure is when its proponents misapprehend the justifications for boundaries and protection of citizens as distinct from non-citizens. Non-citizens may be admitted as guests, but they cannot presume any rights to permanent residency. Non-citizens are not citizens. Somehow the truth of that tautology is too-often overlooked. Citizens and non-citizens both are possessed of universal human rights to justice, among others, but these do not include any right for non-citizens to claim rights of citizenship or residency wherever they wish. If they apply for citizenship in accordance with the laws of a given nation, and conform with its requirements, their request may be granted. But if not, they may not ignore the nation’s laws. They may be forced properly, even against their will, to depart and never to return. Or they may be required to depart and wait for some period to pass before requesting again to cross the national boundaries for yet another temporary visit.

        I have not seen any suggestion that there was ever any intent to deny the accused a trial by jury for this event, regardless of his other crimes. Likewise, his acquittal of murder or manslaughter in this case does not prevent the enforcement of penalties for his other crimes. You say: “I think it makes sense that, when an undocumented alien witnesses a crime and wishes to cooperate with the police, that immigrant should not have to fear being turned over to ICE by the local authorities.” I disagree, because a criminal should always fear apprehension for his or her crimes. Ideally, such fear ought to deter one from becoming such a criminal in the first place. This is called respect for the law, and for the citizens whom the law is designed to protect. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, but an “undocumented alien” should never exist. If a foreigner enters a country legally, he has documentation of the privilege by which he has done so. If he is granted a period to remain in the country for some authorized purpose, he has corresponding documentation. If he overstays that period and that authorization, he may have some limited period of grace to re-apply or to prepare for an orderly departure before any sanctions will be applied. During such a “grace” period, his lapsed documentation will be overlooked. But continued failure to comply cannot be overlooked, and deliberate refusal to comply is a criminal action in and of itself. Such undocumented, unauthorized, anarchic, criminal foreigners *must* be detected and deported for the sake of maintaining respect for all the laws which protect citizens. Failure to do so undermines that respect and encourages anarchy. Anarchy must never be confused with liberty. It is, in fact, inimical to the preservation of liberty.

        It is a bit disingenuous for you to compare marijuana and murder, particularly ignoring the difference between legitimized medical treatment and ad-hoc abuse of controlled substances. However, a city that views the Federal government and its laws as null-and-void or inapplicable or over-reaching or overzealous, is making itself an outlaw just as surely as if it were some heavily-armed private compound in Waco, Texas that viewed itself illegally as an independent sovereign entity. When such behavior reaches the level of threatening the well-being of its residents or of any other citizens, proper legally-constituted higher authorities are required and justified to take contrary action. So-called “sanctuary cities” are just as guilty of the crime of secession as was the Confederacy of Southern States that initiated the Civil War. Reasonable authorities are still discussing such cases before they decline into intractable violence, just as efforts were made before the Civil War to propose compromise solutions. But at some point the disagreement must be resolved in favor of proper authorities, whether by expedient agreement or by violent enforcement. Continued rebellion is not tolerable. Anarchy is not tolerable.

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      • “It is a bit disingenuous for you to compare marijuana and murder, particularly ignoring the difference between legitimized medical treatment and ad-hoc abuse of controlled substances.” I wasn’t equating marijuana use to murder, and I was referring to pot’s recreational use, not as medical treatment. You, on the other hand, seem to be equating sanctuary cities with “heavily-armed private compounds and slave states that seceded from the Union. You are right though, the economies of certain states, like California, depend upon migrant farm workers. These are jobs that are available to American citizens, but they don’t want to engage in that kind of backbreaking, thankless work. So our country must either reform the immigration laws to enable more immigrants to get temporary visas more quickly or to accept that there will be people who cross the boarders into our country illegally, but who live productive, constructive lives and who commit criminal acts at a significantly lower rate than natural-born Americans do.

        So let’s just agree to disagree and move on.

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      • @Fandango — Apparently we’ll disagree whether or not we agree to do so; but have you ever considered what is a typical American response to a challenge? What do you think might happen if foreigners are successfully interdicted and prohibited from undermining the US wage base for “backbreaking, thankless work” that is “available to American citizens”? It seems to me that one of two possibilities is likely. Either the wages paid for this work will rise to meet standards deemed worthwhile by American workers, or a technological, perhaps robotic, solution will be devised to eliminate the backbreaking effort and keep costs low. Possibly some combination of these two will result, between a few skilled robotic-machine operators and maintainers, who are paid commensurately, and a flock of robotic machines which easily perform tasks that are difficult for humans. But no one will invest the effort and resources to develop such a system as long as the migrant slave-wage alternative exists. Sometimes even “good ol’ American ingenuity” requires an economic “kick in the pants”. In agricultural harvesting processes, it might even face competition from some good ol’ Israeli ingenuity, given the economic opportunity opened up by eliminating that migrant slave-wage alternative. The development of such solutions would improve not only the US situation, but the technology and its machines could be exported to the other side of borders that were no longer porous, improving working conditions there, as well, and eliminating even the impetus that formerly fostered illegal border crossing. But it all begins with successful control of borders.

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      • @PL — explain all that to Donald Trump, who hires immigrant workers at Mar-a-Lago every year because American citizens won’t take those jobs because of the low pay and lousy working conditions.

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      • I know nothing of the hiring practices at Mar-a-Lago — though I must presume they are legal, because otherwise there would be already a great fuss over it in the media. I suppose the country must take one step at a time: first controlling the borders to halt illegal invasion, then dealing with those already present illegally, then raising standards and improving conditions for existing legal immigrant workers, then leveling the playing field for all worker opportunities. The story of Labor history in the US has been one of gradually improving conditions, with setbacks and retrenchments during economic downturns. I presume a similar process will integrate newer workers among existing ones, especially if market forces are allowed to operate without excessive artificial legislative or other distortion or restraint, and foreign unprotected guest-workers are not being exploited to undermine the wage base.

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      • Trump has secured an exception to get visas to hire 70 foreign workers who will be employed during the 2017-18 season as maids, cooks, and servers. This is after signing an executive order in April on the very topic of protecting American jobs. Trump stated: “It’s America first, you better believe it. It’s time. It’s time, right?” He has previously argued it is difficult to find workers to staff his Mar-a-Lago resort. But a nonprofit job placement agency in Palm Beach County said there were plenty of workers based inside the U.S. who could take on the roles.

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  2. Let me get this straight — he was known to be a felon due to seven prior convictions, he was proven to be on the pier, he was illegally in possession of a stolen automatic weapon, that weapon was proven to have fired the bullets which killed the woman, he was proven to be the man who fired the weapon, and somehow the jury was convinced that the weapon discharged accidentally in the direction of the victim and the man was not at fault? I presume the prosecutor asked the obvious question about what that man was doing in that place carrying that loaded weapon at that time? I mean, he could hardly have been presumed to be just taking a stroll, now could he? Was his intention somehow shown to be that there was someone else on the pier who was his intended victim instead of the woman who actually was killed? How could he have been acquitted of even the charge of involuntary manslaughter, even if there were the slightest hint that the weapon discharge was somehow not intended to occur at the moment it did or toward the woman who was actually killed? Clearly, this appears to have been “negligent operation of machinery”, which could justify the charge of involuntary manslaughter. There have got to be sufficient grounds for an appeal of this trial and this verdict. It seems to me that whether the man were also in violation of immigration laws should be entirely irrelevant to the facts of this particular case as you have presented them. Are you suggesting that San Francisco, as a so-called “sanctuary city”, has become so inured to the notion of obedience to one set of laws that its citizens on a jury cannot bring themselves to enforce other life-protecting deterrent laws if the accused belongs to a sympathetically-protected sanctified class?

    Under biblical law, if that were so, the entire city could fall under condemnation and be subject to destruction. One could even expect a situation like this to trigger yet another great earthquake under that city. Of course, no one who is aware of San Francisco’s moral reputation would think that it considered itself to be at all subject to biblical standards; but I wonder it they would be surprised if such a disaster were to occur. I detect a story opportunity, here, that would follow the actions of some covert team of (God-appointed?; self-appointed?) agents as they work to bring about exactly that sort of scenario and the publicity that would convey a suitable moral message in the public explanation for its occurrence. There’s just so much resonance here with the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. One could even work into the story a reflection of the scene in which Avraham pleads to spare the city if even a minimal number of “righteous” or innocent inhabitants can be identified, as well as scenes of miraculous escape and preservation of the small number of such folks whose numbers were too small for them to influence the disastrous outcome. The challenge of setting up the background and the multiple scenes for such a story might require book-length treatment, however. I’m not sure a movie-length treatment could do justice to it, even if a double-length epic feature like DeMille’s “Ten Commandments” were employed, though it has the makings of quite a disaster flick. I can picture some of the advertising: “Inspired by an actual event”. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first film to envision disaster in San Francisco; but it could have a uniquely moral biblical message.

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    • PL, one day when Messiah sits on his throne in Jerusalem and rules with a rod of iron, all injustices will be purged from the Earth. Until that day, injustice runs wild.

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      • No you wouldn’t even if you’re Jewish. People who have never studied the Bible (you can’t just read it in English and assume you understand the underlying intent, context, and history) seem to believe that, particularly in the Old Testament, there was a lynch mob mentality. However, only certain crimes were punishable by death but they required two reliable witnesses and a trial. Only if a guilty verdict was found was the person executed and it wasn’t that often. While I certainly am not going to attempt to convince you of Biblical validity one way or the other, it would be helpful to not discount people of faith out of hand simply because you don’t share (and perhaps misunderstand) their views or their faith.

        Oh, I’m writing a companion piece to this blog post exploring the wider implications of U.S. immigration laws and sanctuary cities relative to Kate Steinle’s death and the verdict arrived at by the shooter’s jury. I understand you support their position, but imagine how people of color felt when a police officer shot and killed an African-American man under what some might say were unjustified circumstances, and the officer was tried and found not guilty on all charges. They also questioned the validity of the jury’s decision. Why have a different set of rules for one population of citizens vs. another?

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      • I do not “discount people of faith.” I am a “whatever floats your boat” kind of a man. That said, our country is not a theocracy…at least not yet, anyway. While Christian values may inform our laws, our country does not enforce “biblical law.”

        I am, as I said before, disturbed by the verdict in this case. I would be equally disturbed where the defendant a while, native-born American, an Afro-American, or any other individual who killed someone with a gun. But I don’t think throwing all the blame for this verdict on sanctuary cities is just. That’s my opinion and I don’t expect you to agree with it, but my opinion is as valid as is yours.

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      • That’s fine. I’m not trying to convince you of anything one way or the other however I process thoughts and emotions by writing so that’s what I did. This particular blog post was crafted rather impulsively and in the heat of the moment. I have since published a companion piece (the link is both at the end of this article and in the comments section) that includes a bit of research and thoughtfulness. I doubt you’ll agree, which is just fine since it would be arrogant of me to expect everyone to see the world the same way I do. Like I said, I’m trying to make sense out of what, to me, makes absolutely no sense, so I’m blogging.

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