Understanding The Kate Steinle Verdict

By now, I suspect most of you are familiar with the Kate Steinle verdict. For those unfamiliar, Kate Steinle was a woman who was shot and killed, reportedly by an illegal immigrant who had been deported back to Mexico several times but was now lounging and relaxing in San Francisco thanks to that city’s sanctuary city status.


The illegal, a man named Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, was found not guilty last week in the murder of Kate Steinle.

After 12 days of testimony, two days of closing arguments and roughly 28 hours of deliberations, a jury of six men and six women acquitted defendant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate of first- and second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, as well as assault with a semi-automatic weapon, in the fatal shooting of Kate Steinle.

Garcia Zarate was found guilty of illegal firearms possession, which carries a sentence of 16 months to three years.

“Today is vindication for the rights of immigrants,” defense attorney Francisco Ugarte said. “Nothing about (Garcia Zarate’s) ethnicity or immigration status was relevant in this case.”

Garcia Zarate, who had been deported five times and was awaiting deportation for a sixth time, was released by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department weeks before Steinle was shot and killed, despite a request from federal authorities to detain him. At the time, the sheriff cited the city’s “sanctuary” policy as a reason for his discharge.

Obviously, people are outraged by the verdict, and that’s perfectly understandable. Practically no one was arguing that Zarate didn’t fire the gun, after all. That apparently included Zarate.


So how did he get off?

Now, I’m not a lawyer, but from what I’ve found it’s a case of the prosecution going for the biggest charges they could. Perhaps it was due to the political environment or perhaps it was some other factor. Who knows. Either way, they went for murder.

However, Zarate argued the weapon discharged by accident.

Prosecutor Diana Garcia said in her closing rebuttal that she didn’t know why Garcia Zarate had fired the weapon, but that he created a risk of death by bringing the gun to the pier that day. Witnesses described him twirling around on a chair for at least 20 minutes before he fired it. Then he was seen running away, leaving behind a scene of chaos. The bullet ricocheted on the concrete walkway of the pier before it struck Steinle. Her last words were: “Help me, dad.”

And therein lies the problem.

Based on my layman’s understanding of California law, the issue is intent. Both first- and second-degree murder require an individual to have an intent to kill. First-degree murder involves premeditation, while second-degree is more of a “heat of the moment” kind of thing.

That leaves manslaughter and I’m baffled. There sounds like there’s ample evidence that he fired the gun, it ricocheted off the ground and killed Kate Steinle, but no conviction. I’m not really sure why. The only thing I can figure is that the prosecutors pushed so hard on the murder charges that the jury didn’t really consider the manslaughter charges. Not really.


It’s also worth noting the complete and total lack of riots. Oh, people all over the country are outraged over the verdict, but not a single building was burned, not a single window was smashed, nothing.

It’s almost like those who are upset at this verdicts are more mature than some other folks I can think of in places like Ferguson, MO and elsewhere.

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