Trial wrapping up in case that sparked immigration debate

By , on November 21, 2017


(Pixabay photo)
The defence was scheduled to finish arguments on Tuesday, and jurors could begin deliberations that same day. (Pixabay photo)

SAN FRANCISCO — Jurors will consider dueling arguments Tuesday that either a homeless man killed a woman at a San Francisco pier by accident or while playing a sick game.

Lawyers offered both portraits Monday in closing arguments at the murder trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate. The defence was scheduled to finish arguments on Tuesday, and jurors could begin deliberations that same day.

Garcia Zarate is charged with shooting to death Kate Steinle as she walked on July 1, 2015. She died in her father’s arms. Her parents were in the courtroom Monday.

The case took on political overtones because Garcia Zarate is a Mexican citizen who had been deported five times and served federal prison time for illegally re-entering the United States.

Garcia Zarate had been released from the San Francisco jail about three months before the shooting, despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him for further deportation proceedings.

San Francisco is a so-called sanctuary city that bars city officials from co-operating with federal immigration deportation efforts.

During the presidential race, then-candidate Donald Trump cited the killing as a reason to toughen U.S. immigration policies.

But national politics did not come up in a monthlong trial that featured circumstantial evidence and extensive testimony from ballistics experts.

The semi-automatic handgun used to kill Steinle was stolen from a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger a week before the shooting.

In her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia told jurors that Garcia Zarate had found the gun somewhere and deliberately shot it toward Steinle while playing “his own secret version of Russian roulette.”

The bullet ricocheted on the pier’s concrete walkway before it struck Steinle.

Defence attorney Matt Gonzalez told jurors that prosecutors were pushing a “wild narrative of a desire to hurt someone he does not know.”

The defence has said that Garcia Zarate found the gun wrapped in a shirt under a chair on the pedestrian pier and it went off by accident when he picked it up.

San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng ruled last week that the jury can consider a more serious charge of first-degree murder in addition to a second-degree murder charge.