SAN FRANCISCO — In a decision that has surprised many, illegal immigrant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was found not guilty Thursday for the July 2015 murder of Kate Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco.
The jury deliberated six days at San Francisco Superior Court before acquitting Zarate of charges of first- and second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Zarate also was found not guilty of assault with a semi-automatic weapon. The only charge to stick was possession of a firearm by a felon. He faced 15 years to life in prison if he had been convicted of the murder charges.
Steinle, as recounted by the The Daily Advocate’s Tony Baker, was struck in the chest by a bullet while visiting Pier 14 on the Embarcadero. The shot pierced her aorta. She was subsequently rushed to San Francisco General Hospital, where she died in her parents’ arms a few hours later. Zarate had been released from a San Francisco jail three months prior to the incident.
Zarate’s defense insisted the gun shot was accidental, and Steinle’s death came as a result of the bullet’s ricochet.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it will take custody of Zarate and “ultimately remove him from the country.”
News of the verdict elicited strong reactions from many, including President Donald Trump and members of his administration.
President Trump, who ran his 2016 campaign on the promise of securing America’s southern border, said he will use the Steinle case to push Congress to pass funding for his proposed wall along the Mexican border, according to USA Today.
“The jury was not told the killer of Kate was a 7 time felon. The Schumer/Pelosi Democrats are so weak on Crime that they will pay a big price in the 2018 and 2020 Elections,” Trump posted on Twitter.
Despite the not-guilty verdict, Fox News reports the U.S. Department of Justice is considering bringing federal charges against Zarate.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told Fox News local governments like San Francisco should “reconsider” sanctuary policies.
“This is a person who had been deported five times—he knew about San Francisco’s sanctuary policies. This is a person that never should have been on that pier, and Kate Steinle would still be alive,” she said.
Jim Steinle, along with other members of the family — also reacted strongly to the outcome.
“We’re just shocked — saddened and shocked. Justice was rendered, but it was not served,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“The outcome of this trial doesn’t change the fact the system, both on a city and federal level, miserably failed in protecting Kate,” Brad Steinle told the Chronicle.
The case has a local connection, as Steinle’s mother, Joan (Sullivan) Steinle, attended St. Mary’s Catholic School in Greenville and graduated from Greenville High School in 1964. Her father attended Greenville’s North School and graduated in 1965.
Local residents expressed their own reactions to the verdict on the Advocate360 Facebook page.
Virginia Adele King Lyons wrote, “He gets off for murdering this young beautiful lady. Where is justice? What was the jury thinking?”
“There is no justice system! It’s a sad world we live in!” said Heather Beam.
Bruce Dowell said, “Just another example of how politics are getting in the way of the justice system. This murder[er] should have been turned over to ICE and deported long before he committed this crime, but politicians protected him and gave him sanctuary as an illegal immigrant.”
“Just a terrible verdict for her and her family,” wrote Tim Harshman.
Norma Guthrie Null’s reaction was succinct: “Build the Wall.”
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com