The hidden side of politics

NOT GUILTY: Verdict in Kate Steinle murder case leaves many in disbelief

In July of 2015 Kathryn Steinle was walking along Pier 14 in San Francisco with her father and a friend when she was shot in the back by Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, an illegal immigrant who had previously been deported five times and freed under local sanctuary laws before the fatal shooting. Before the shooting, the San Francisco sheriff’s department had released him from jail despite a federal immigration request to detain him for deportation. Its “sanctuary city” law limits cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities. Had San Francisco followed requests from federal authorities Kathryn would still be alive today.

José Zarate told ABC station KGO-TV in a jailhouse interview that he started wandering on Pier 14 after taking sleeping pills he found in a dumpster. He said he then picked up a gun that he found wrapped in cloth beneath a bench. He initially claimed that he fired at a sea lion, then claimed that he fired accidentally while picking up the gun. A supervising criminologist at the San Francisco Police Department crime lab testified that the gun was in excellent condition and would not have fired without someone pulling the trigger. The shot ricocheted off the concrete deck of the pier striking Steinle in the back. Steinle died two hours later in the hospital as a result of the shooting. Immediately after the shooting Jose kicked the gun into the water before fleeing the scene.

José Zárate is from Guanajuato, Mexico, and had been deported from the U.S. five times and had seven felony convictions. His first conviction was in 1991 when he was arrested on drug charges in Arizona. In 1993, he was convicted three times in Washington state for felony heroin possession and manufacturing narcotics. In 1994 in Oregon the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) deported Garcia Zarate. However, Garcia Zarate returned to the U.S. within two years and was convicted yet again of heroin possession. He was deported a second time in 1997.

The gun used by Garcia Zarate had been stolen in San Francisco from a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ranger’s personal vehicle on June 27, 2015. The ranger testified that he had left the weapon holstered and unsecured in a backpack under the front seat of his personal vehicle while he went to dinner with his family. The car’s window had been broken.

Garcia Zarate was formally charged with first-degree murder, possession of illegal narcotics, and being a felon in possession of a firearm, although he was eventually tried for second-degree murder. The jury also had the option of deciding if he was guilty of involuntary manslaughter (where the death occurs without intent but “through the negligent or reckless actions of the defendant).

The prosecution claimed he brought the stolen gun to the crime scene while the defense contended the weapon was found under a bench. The defense emphasized that the Sig Sauer pistol has no external safety mechanism to prevent accidental firing, and pointed to a record of even police trained in the use of Sig Sauer pistols having made accidental discharges. On November 30, 2017, after five days of deliberations, the jury acquitted Garcia Zarate of all murder and manslaughter charges, but convicted him of felony possession of a firearm.


Now that we have reviewed all the relevant facts let’s take a step back and analyze the ‘Not Guilty’ verdict handed down from the Jury. Jose Zarate was facing the possibility of conviction for one of two murder charges. Zarate was formally charged with second-degree murder but the jury had the option of deciding in favor of an involuntary manslaughter conviction.

Under U.S. law second-degree murder is defined as: an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in reasonable “heat of passion”; or a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender’s obvious lack of concern for human life. When looking at the latter part of that definition, and taking into consideration Zarate’s initial statement that he was ‘firing at a sea lion,’ it is hard to understand how his actions do not display an obvious lack of concern for human life. To pick up a random hand gun, and then proceed to fire said hand gun while on a crowded pier, shows a COMPLETE LACK OF CONCERN for the wellbeing of those around you.

The jury also had the option of convicting Zarate of an involuntary manslaughter charge. In U.S law “involuntary manslaughter usually refers to an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence, or from an unlawful act that is a misdemeanor or low-level felony.” Zarate gave two explanations for what happened that day: 1) he picked up the gun and randomly started ‘firing at a sea lion’ and 2) that the gun was wrapped in a piece of cloth and accidentally discharged, striking Steinle in the back. Let’s say Zarate did start firing the gun randomly at a sea lion. His actions show a clear and reckless disregard for the safety of those around him, which resulted in Steinle’s death. Let’s weigh his second excuse: the gun was wrapped in a piece of cloth and accidentally discharged when he picked it up. Zarate is a convicted felon who has been deported 5 TIMES. He committed a felony by picking up the gun in the first place. This felony that he committed resulted in the death of 32 year old Kate Steinle, who was simply out enjoying the day with her father. It is absolutely and unequivocally, a miscarriage of justice that Jose Zarate was not found responsible for the death of Kate Steinle. His actions showed a clear disregard for the safety and wellbeing of those around him, and because of his carelessness Kate Steinle lost her life. We at The National Hill stand with Kate’s family and loved ones, and pray that they will get the justice they so rightly deserve.