The jury in the trial for the homeless illegal immigrant who shot and killed Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier in 2015 began its deliberations Tuesday after the prosecution and defense delivered their closing arguments.
The 32-year-old’s death at the hands of Jose Inez Garcia Zarate on July 1, 2015, propelled the political debate over sanctuary city policies and immigration enforcement measures to the forefront of national discourse during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Steinle died after Garcia Zarate, who had been deported from the U.S. five times, fired a stolen .40-caliber handgun. The bullet ricocheted off Pier 14’s concrete walkway and struck her in the back. Steinle was with her father at the time of the shooting.
“A vibrant life was taken from us because of this man’s actions,” Assistant District Attorney Diana Garcia told jurors Monday. “Kate Steinle was wiped from the face of the Earth in her father’s arms because of this man.”
“He knew exactly what he was doing,” Garcia said, adding that Garcia Zarate “was playing his own secret version of Russian roulette.”
Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez argued that Garcia Zarate wasn’t targeting Steinle in particular when he fired the gun, saying that the illegal immigrant would have fired the gun more than once and aimed it directly at Steinle if he were actively trying to kill her.
“He missed Ms. Steinle by 78 feet,” Gonzalez said. “But for that ricochet, he would not have hit her.”
“This is about the Steinle family and the incredible resolve they’ve shown through this whole process. We’re going to do everything we can to bring them justice.”
Gonzalez also accused the prosecutors of spinning a “wild narrative of a desire to hurt someone he does not know.”
“Can you say he put his finger on the trigger and pulled it because he wanted to do her harm?” Gonzalez said of the Mexican citizen.
But prosecutors pushed the jury to consider a first-degree murder charge in addition to the second-degree murder charge already filed for Garcia Zarate. Francisco County Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng ruled last week that the jury could consider both charges.
“This is about the Steinle family and the incredible resolve they’ve shown through this whole process. We’re going to do everything we can to bring them justice,” said Alex Bastian, spokesman for District Attorney George Gascon, CBS News reported Monday.
Back in 2016, Steinle’s family filed a lawsuit alleging that the city of San Francisco was partially responsible for her death because Garcia Zarate, a multiple deportee, had been released again from jail in April 2015 despite a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold him so that they could process him for deportation. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit earlier in 2017.
President Donald Trump brought Steinle’s death at the hands of an illegal immigrant to the forefront of the national discourse shortly after he launched his 2016 presidential campaign. In a statement at the time, Trump said that the “senseless and totally preventable act of violence” that claimed Steinle’s life was “yet another example of why we must secure our border.”
“Nobody else has the guts to even talk about it,” Trump had said. “The American people deserve a wall.”
In June 2017, the House passed Kate’s Law, which was named after Steinle. Should the Senate pass the bill, it would increase the maximum penalties for illegal immigrants who return to the U.S. after being deported. With a slim Republican majority in the Senate, the bill is not expected to garner enough votes to pass.
After the House passed the bill, Trump released a statement saying, “Every year, countless Americans are victimized, assaulted, and killed by illegal immigrants who have been deported multiple times. It is time for these tragedies to end.”