December 1st, 2017

Kate Steinle’s shooter is acquitted of murder and manslaughter

In a verdict that shocked a lot of people, a jury in San Francisco has acquitted Kate Steinle’s shooter of both murder and manslaughter. The only thing they found five-times-deported and five-times-returned illegal immigrant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate guilty of was illegal possession of a firearm as a felon. His immigration status was irrelevant to the proceedings (although it’s been very relevant to the public), but the upshot of the verdict is that he will probably be sentenced for up to three years and then deported (again).

I hadn’t followed the trial although I followed the initial shooting. It’s certainly possible that what we have here is a jury that was predisposed to let Zarate off easy, for political reasons—after all, we’re dealing with San Franciso. But in trying to understand the verdict it’s also important to read articles such as this, and get acquainted with some of the details of a case in which complex and competing testimony was presented about the possibility of an accidental firing of the gun and about what the trajectory of the bullet told us about where the gun was when it was fired.

I’m woefully unequipped to say much about these technical aspects. Perhaps the jury was confused, too. If you read the comments at the link I just gave, you can find a lot more information on which to base an opinion as to whether an accidental shooting would have been possible with this particular weapon (supposedly more prone to such things). The defense’s version of the killing—that the shooter found the gun wrapped in some cloth, picked it up without knowing what it was, and it discharged by accident (lots of testimony about the likelihood of an accidental discharge and the position of the gun when it fired, evidenced by the bullet’s trajectory—see this and this), seems improbable to me. But of course I didn’t sit on the jury and hear the evidence, and all the defense had to do was create reasonable doubt.

There certainly sounds like there probably is reasonable doubt as to first degree murder. But apparently, as described in that linked post from Red State, the prosecution pushed strongly for the higher charge of murder rather than the more readily-provable involuntary manslaughter. The possible crimes in the case were as follows:

According to instructions read to the jury, if Steinle’s killing on July 1, 2015, was willful, deliberate and premeditated, it would justify a first-degree murder conviction. If her killing was the result of a dangerous act likely to cause someone’s death, the jury could find Garcia Zarate guilty of second-degree murder. If he didn’t intend to kill anyone but was criminally negligent in handling a loaded firearm, he could be convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

The jury of six men and six women also will consider the separate charges of being a felon in possession of a handgun and assault with a semi-automatic weapon.

If you read the rest of that article, you can see how murder would have been a stretch, but involuntary manslaughter probably could easily have been supported.

This was an exceptionally emotional and tragic case in which a beautiful young woman had her life ended by gunshot, and we know who did it. The jury thinks it was an accident, but much of the rest of the country thinks it was at least manslaughter and possibly murder.

However, one thing seems pretty likely—if Zarate gets deported, he’ll probably be returning.

31 Responses to “Kate Steinle’s shooter is acquitted of murder and manslaughter”

  1. Griffin Says:

    I understand their role in the process but those two defense attorneys comments after the verdict were pathetic.

  2. blert Says:

    Any American invading Mexico symetrically would be sent to prison for quite a stretch.

    Look at how Mexico jumps all over more southern Latin Americans.

    A nation without a border is not a nation.

  3. Frog Says:

    The injustice of the verdict will not serve California nor illegal immigrants well. It will fire up us Deplorables into even greater heights of fury.
    The only greater POS than this Mexicano is the Federal Government, which surely facilitated the killing, accidental or not, by letting this dude back in and back in and back in and back in and back in. And Obama is the symbol of that.

  4. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Given the facts of the case, there’s no way Zarate could be found guilty of murder, as reasonable doubt is easily demonstrated.

    Given the facts of the case, there’s no way Zarate could NOT be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The blood of Steinle’s death now lies on the jury’s hands. As well as those who support sanctuary for illegals, who by definition are criminals.

    I do take issue with the presumption that the prosecutors were overzealous. It’s a highly political, rabidly leftist sanctuary city. I don’t buy for a second that, “The prosecutors were under tremendous political pressure.” that is to prove Zarate guilty of murder. But they were under tremendous political pressure to steer the jury to the least serious conviction possible and, they succeeded.

    I think they intentionally went for the higher charge knowing it to be unsustainable and would thus help to result in Zarate’s acquittal.

    Politicians in sanctuary do NOT want illegals convicted of serious crimes. It’s “bad optics”…

  5. Dave Says:

    I do not condone violence and I do not advocate revenge, but somewhere deep in my heart I hope Kate’s father would pull a “A time to kill” on the murdering illegal immigrant. I would acquit the man no matter what if I get pick to be part of the jury “of course I would pull a “Runaway Jury” and pretend to be a moderate in the picking process.

  6. Kyndyll G Says:

    I agree with GB. There is no chance this was going to produce a murder conviction (or should have), but there is no way that anyone else, under other circumstances, in another place, would not have been convicted of manslaughter.

    This is a gross miscarriage of justice and will only serve to further outrage the silent majority that resides between the coasts. It also tells anyone with half a brain – who is a legal US citizen – to move out of sanctuary cities if you live in one, or not to visit one if you have the choice to go elsewhere. I have to go where my company tells me to go, but my tourist dollars will not help support these lawless hellholes.

  7. CBI Says:

    I am a NRA-certified pistol instructor with a slightly different perspective.

    FIrst, it is a federal felony for an illegal alien, such as Garcia Zarate, to have a firearm. This means that the federal government can also prosecute him and probably put him away for an additional ten years. They should do so.

    Second, in hindsight, the prosecutors should have sought a manslaughter conviction. Although sometimes over-charging leads a jury to settle on a lesser included offense, in this case it apparently made the prosecution look incompetent and over-zealous. That may have been intentional, of course.

    Third, the evidence that I’ve seen (based on a number of reports from media on the left and the right) indicates to me that the jury’s conclusion that there was reasonable doubt as to Garcia Zarate being negligent itself seems reasonable. The model of Sig Sauer P239 involved does have a very light trigger and is known to accidentally discharge when dropped. (It has some odd handling quirks as well.) Apparently the interrogation was not handled well either.

    Fourth, had the U.S. better border security–adequate to have kept Garcia Zarate out–Kate Steinle would not have been killed.

  8. neo-neocon Says:


    Wouldn’t it depend on the definition of “having” a firearm? The defense claimed it was wrapped in a cloth when he picked it up, and that it fired accidently before he saw that it was a gun.

    That combination of events seems implausible to me.

  9. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “The defense claimed it was wrapped in a cloth when he picked it up, and that it fired accidently before he saw that it was a gun.” neo

    The shape and feel of a pistol is so distinct that instant recognition occurs. Zarate could have fired it accidentally but his changing story reveals profound dishonesty. It was criminal to acquit him of involuntary manslaughter.

  10. J.J. Says:

    If the immigration laws were enforced, Zarate would not have been in the U.S. and Kate Steinle would be alive.

    If Zarate had not picked up the gun, it would not have gone off. And Kate Steinle would be alive.

    If you are enraged by this miscarriage of justice, you are not alone. We number in the millions.

    If the prosecution had presented a proper case, a conviction for involuntary manslaughter would have been achieved. Some sense of justice for Kate’s family have been achieved.

    If sanctuary cities continue to exist, heinous crimes by illegal aliens will continue. This was not a one off. There have been many similarly awful crimes that have occurred in other sanctuary cities.

    If we do not close our border and stop visa overstays, we are no longer a sovereign nation.

    If anyone doubted that the progressive policies are a danger to the nation, this case should erase all doubts.

  11. Csimon621 Says:

    This was a travesty.. I am not a lawyer but I do know that when someone is driving a car and causes an accident (unintentionally…which is why we call it an accident) in which someone is killed, driver is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Also, not uncommon for juries to decide on this charge as compromise when they can’t reach unanimous verdict for Murder 1 or 2. Whether this guy intended to kill someone randomly that day or was trying to hit “the girl walking with 2 men”, there is no question that he did pick it up & a bullet was discharged by pulling trigger — it did not jump out of the gun and Kate Steinle was killed as direct result. This is another one of those “only in California” moments. And I am disgusted!

    And now we deport him again?! To re-enter again illegally and head right back to sanctuary city San Francisco – why not? It’s been very lucky for him (wait, word “luck” implies chance, doesn’t it? And I’m not convinced it was luck that he got off.

    The “cherry on top” of this case was the defense lawyer’s press conference after verdict in which he took opportunity to “remind” the President and US Attorney General that before they say anything about this they are themselves under investigation for crimes. Nice, huh?

  12. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    It gets better. Zarate’s lawyer is now saying that anyone who is enraged at Zarate being acquitted is motivated by… wait for it… racism.

  13. Cornhead Says:

    SF and CA is lawless.

  14. neo-neocon Says:


    Actually, according to the defense, this was analogous to getting into a car and not realizing it is a car, and the car is self-driving and it hits and kills someone.

    Also see CGI’s comment at 4:38 PM above.

  15. parker Says:

    If when I am out deer hunting I see another hunter and squeeze the trigger because I thought he was a six point buck, I would be guilty of involuntary manslaughter…. unless of course if I was an illegal alien with a felony record in CA.

    When states or localities willfully disregard immigration laws they are involved in insurrection.

  16. Lee Says:

    Riddle me this: California is a state with felony murder law: if, while committing a feeling, someone dies as a direct result, you have committed murder. If you set fire to a building, felony arson, even if you think no one is there, you’ve committed murder. Not negligent homicide, not manslaughter. He was found guilty of a felony, and as a direct result of his felony, Kate Steinle was killed.

    It’s shameful, politicized, spineless, lefty jury nullification. Those jackasses. I hope they’re the victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens.

  17. Lee Says:

    CBI — apparently, he dropped it three times. Because it was fired three times.

    Reminds me of a crazy acquittal many years ago in Indiana. A women killed her husband by repeatedly dropping a bowling ball on his head. REPEATEDLY. Like twenty times. She claimed it was an accident. She was acquitted. Crazy.

  18. F Says:

    Dave @ 3:58

    If Kate’s father were to seek revenge, the big question is should that revenge be exacted on the shooter or the defense attorney?

  19. neo-neocon Says:


    I’m not sure what the answer to your question is, but I’ll take a stab at it. If you look at the elements of felony murder in California, even if the death is accidental during the commission of the felony, the accused nevertheless has to have intended to commit the felony (if not the death).

    In this case, I believe the prosecution alleged that the perp did not know he had picked up a gun and did not intend it to go off. If the jury bought that argument, then perhaps the intent element of commission of the felony leading to the death would not have been present.

    I don’t know whether that was the reason that felony murder didn’t come into play, but it didn’t. I can’t find any in-depth discussions of why it didn’t, but here’s an article making it clear that felony murder was not applicable.

  20. Dave Says:

    Shooter of course. Defense attorney’s job is to get his client exonerated of all charges with any legal ways possible, have no problem with men or women doing their job.

  21. F Says:


    Perhaps you missed the defense attorney’s smug press conference following the acquittal. He clearly enjoyed his job too much, especially insofar as he could stick it to the President.

  22. Dave Says:

    Smugness still is not a death sentence. I don’t hate liberals, I pity them, their souls have been corrupted by their compassion after being manipulated by people with bad intentions.

    What I was trying to say was if liberals can let a murderer walk just to infuriate trump and his law and order loving supporters, why can’t conservatives to the same and exonerate Kate’s father if he chose to exact revenge on the shooter?

    Imagine the implication of the result of this trial, the liberals are endorsing murders against whites and conservatives. They are announcing “Antifa, don’t worry, go murder some trump supporters, do it in California and our liberals juries will exonerate you regardless of evidence.”

  23. AesopFan Says:

    Kyndyll G Says:
    December 1st, 2017 at 4:03 pm
    …It also tells anyone with half a brain – who is a legal US citizen – to move out of sanctuary cities if you live in one, or not to visit one if you have the choice to go elsewhere. I have to go where my company tells me to go, but my tourist dollars will not help support these lawless hellholes.
    * * *
    It’s getting hard to cross them all off the list.
    Once upon a time I thought anywhere in Texas would be okay (except for Austin and Dallas), but not anymore.

  24. parker Says:

    Revenge as we all know is a dish best tasted when cold. Wait 2 or 3 years, then do it quietly one after another. Leave no traces and do it solo and keep your mouth shut to the grave. Don’t mess around with the Scott/Irish/Hillbillies.. Long on memories and short on unforgiving. Kill my children or grandchildren and best hope you die before I die.

  25. TommyJay Says:

    The so called facts of the case are a mess. Perhaps this explains the acquittal, though the prosecutor should strive to eliminate the confusion.

    Zarate told a reporter in a jailhouse interview that he fired the gun three times. Except he said many conflicting things, and I believe three shots is incorrect. Because …

    The police criminalist testified that only one shot was fired because one round was missing from the 7 round magazine. Except …

    The BLM Ranger said he always stored the firearm loaded according to BLM procedure which was: a full mag. plus one round in the chamber (that’s 8 rounds), and the hammer uncocked. He also testified that he couldn’t be certain he decocked the hammer, though he almost always did.

    So did Zarate fire two rounds?

    Also, there was all this crap in the RedState article about the gun having a hair trigger with a 4.4 lb pull. A) A 2 lb. trigger pull or less is a hair trigger, not 4.4 lb. B) It is highly likely that the Ranger left the gun in its SOP state, with the hammer uncocked, so the trigger pull is 10+ lb. which takes a very deliberate pull.

    Steinle’s wound is consistent with the gun being discharged at waist or chest height, pointed below horizontal by about 15 deg., striking the concrete about 15 ft. away, ricocheting, and striking Steinle another 70 or 80 ft. away in the mid back. The physics checks. So Zarate did not step on firearm to discharge it, because if he did, there would not have been a ricochet.

    Plus his hand tested positive for gunshot residue. Except… the police only found one particle of residue. Weird. And bad for the prosecution.

    I have another large problem with the whole story. This is an $1,100 gun. So some random thugs smash and grab this gun, carry it around for 4 days, and then leave it under a chair at the pier? Isn’t this a prize piece of booty? Isn’t it much more likely that Zarate smashed and grabbed it and carried it around for 4 days?

  26. Molly Brown Says:

    “Forget it, Jake. It’s California.”

  27. groundhog Says:

    As opposed to picking up the gun, what if you were walking along and kicked a cloth wrapped object, not knowing it was a gun and it went off and killed someone?

    I’m confused as to what is the difference between handling an cloth wrapped object that fires before you figure out what it is versus kicking it when you don’t know what it is with the same consequences.

    None the less, this guy walking free in the US is outrageous for a number of reasons even before we get to the murder.

  28. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Said it elsewhere: If the gun “went off accidentally”, that means it was cocked and there was a round in the chamber. This might have been testified to by the moron fed agent who lost the gun. He was, apparently, unsure whether he’d left it cocked. But he had a round in the chamber.
    So if it’s so delicate, how did it not “go off accidentally” in all the other handling from its loss/theft to Zarate’s hand?
    Not buying it.

  29. Mike K Says:

    TommyJay has it right.

    “The model of Sig Sauer P239 involved does have a very light trigger and is known to accidentally discharge when dropped. (It has some odd handling quirks as well.) Apparently the interrogation was not handled well either.”

    Not true. The accidental discharges are cocked weapons. The issue of multiple trigger pulls is also a factor plus, I have read, that his first story was that he was shooting at sea lions, who in San Francisco are much more protected than humans. He was obviously coached on what story to give

  30. CBI Says:


    Wouldn’t it depend on the definition of “having” a firearm? The defense claimed it was wrapped in a cloth when he picked it up, and that it fired accidently before he saw that it was a gun.

    That combination of events seems implausible to me.

    Sorry, I hadn’t heard that claim, which should remove the “felon in possession” charge–although, nowadays, prosecutors are not always so common-sensical.

    Assuming no contradictory evidence, however, the wrapped-up-and-fired-accidentally sequence is possible.

    Mike K:

    Not true. The accidental discharges are cocked weapons. The issue of multiple trigger pulls is also a factor….

    I was wrong concerning the P239 and drop discharges, and was mixing it up with the P320 (striker fired). Yes, the P239 would have to be cocked or otherwise have enough force on the trigger to fire. I can see either of those as not totally unreasonable, especially if it were wrapped in a cloth and he put his finger into the opening between the trigger guard and trigger while handling it. (Very much possible to do by accident, especially if you don’t know what’s inside the cloth.)

    The discussion re the number of shots is important. (I had only heard reports of a single shot prior to this discussion.) If only one (Steinle’s dad said he heard “a pop”), then that supports the “accident” contention. However, if more than one, not so much.

    I’m hesitant to second-guess a jury, in this or in other high-profile cases (e.g., Zimmerman). I think we’re all agreed that Garcia Zarate should not have been in the U.S. and that keeping him out would have kept Kate Steinle from being shot that day.

  31. Steve57 Says:

    If this guy’s lawyer is to be believed, nobody is ever guilty of anything. Because nobody is capable of knowing. What’s the lawyer’r name, James Comey?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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