Not Guilty: S.F. Jury Delivers Verdict in Kathryn Steinle Slaying
A San Francisco jury has acquitted the man who fired the shot that killed Kathryn Steinle on the city’s waterfront in 2015, finding him not guilty of homicide charges.
The verdict, coming at the end of six days of deliberation, is a surprising end to a case that garnered national attention because of the undisputed identity of the shooter.
How the Steinle Verdict Could Alter the Political Landscape
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was convicted Thursday of a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm but acquitted on charges of murder and manslaughter. His undocumented status and history of deportations and illegal re-entry into the U.S. sparked criticism of San Francisco laws prohibiting cooperation with immigration authorities in most cases.
“From day one, this case was used as a means to foment hate, to foment division, and to foment a program of mass deportation,” defense attorney Francisco Ugarte said outside of court after the verdict was delivered. “It was used to catapult a presidency along the philosophy of hate of others. … Nothing about Mr. Garcia Zarate’s ethnicity, nothing about his immigration status, nothing about the fact that he is born in Mexico had any relevance as to what happened on July 1, 2015. We believe the verdict is a correct and accurate reflection of the law and what happened on that day.”
The firearm conviction carries a maximum sentence of three years in state prison, but could be adjusted upwards based on Garcia Zarate’s previous criminal record, which included multiple convictions for illegally entering the United States. Any sentence will also credit Garcia Zarate for time served since his arrest shortly after he fired the shot that killed Steinle on July 1, 2015.
Prosecutors in the case had argued that Garcia Zarate fired a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol — a weapon stolen from a Bureau of Land Management officer’s car in an unrelated auto burglary several days before — with the intent to kill.
“At the end of the day, this case really was a question for the jury,” district attorney’s spokesman Alex Bastian said. “The verdict that came in today is not one we were hoping for.”
Although the homicide acquittals technically reflect only the jury’s judgment that prosecutors failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the verdict also suggests defense attorneys were successful in persuading the panel that the shooting was inadvertent: that Garcia Zarate found an object wrapped in a shirt near a pedestrian pier on the Embarcadero, that he didn’t realize the object was a gun, and that the weapon discharged accidentally.