The prosecution in the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate tried to set the stage for the day Kate Steinle was killed, presenting witnesses who put Jose Ines Garcia Zarate on Pier 14 at the time – but the presentations were not always consistent.
The prosecution’s witnesses included three civilians and an SFPD officer from the crime scene investigation unit.
The testimony today portrayed an image of Zarate that made him look erratic, indifferent, and unhinged. Public Defender Matt Gonzalez says that’s contrary to what the prosecution has been alleging — that Zarate intentionally aimed and shot Steinle.
Gonzalez spoke to the press briefly before the hearing began.
“We are trying to honestly portray what happened,” Gonzalez said. He said that Zarate’s mental state was important: “I think it would be wrong to pretend that there aren’t also mental state and mental health issues at play. So I’m trying to honestly present that without trying to improperly take advantage of that,” Gonzalez said.
The prosecution argued yesterday that Zarate had intentionally shot Steinle. “At the end of the day the jury has to answer one question and that’s whether or not the defendant intended to pull the trigger,” said Alex Bastian, press aide to District Attorney George Gascon.
The prosecution’s first witness Michelle Lo, a mother of two who lives on the East Coast and was at Pier 14 at the time of the shooting. She said she saw Steinle on the ground after she heard a loud bang.
She told the court she saw Zarate at the Pier earlier that evening. “I saw a man dressed in all black swiveling on the chair (…) he was just looking around at everyone.” When asked if she interacted with Zarate, Lo said she didn’t.
A few minutes later, further down Pier 14, she said she heard a loud bang. “I heard a bang, I didn’t know what the sound was but it came from my left,” Lo said, saying she then heard a woman scream and turned around to see a woman on the ground. “I heard a scream a very sharp scream,” Lo said some people around them started to help the family.” I saw the woman’s dad holding her”
Lo then said she saw “a man dressed in black turn and leave towards the street.” This is a crucial point — the prosecution is asserting that Zarate intentionally shot Steinle and then walked rapidly away from the scene.
Then came the cross examination.
Gonzalez pointed out that in earlier statements to the police, Lo had said she barely remembered Zarate.
“Do you recall you said that you just glanced at him?” Gonzalez asked Lo, who testified that she didn’t remember her exact statement to the police. “Do you remember saying to the police on July 1st that you didn’t see his face?”
Gonzalez then read from the statement in which Lo told the officers at the scene that she didn’t remember what Zarate looked like. “I didn’t see his face, I don’t remember seeing faces but he was black.”
At this point, the prosecution objected to the statement — and it turned out that the prosecution had a different version of the testimony provided to the SFPD. Apparently, there was a translation problem, and Sgt Tang, the officer who interviewed Lo, is expected to testify in court at a later date.
The next two witnesses were Maria Moreno, 34-year-old Central Valley resident who has been a teacher for the last five years. Morano and her roommate Erin Carpenter who were visiting San Francisco to escape the heat in Central Valley in July of 2015.
Moreno, who was staying on the fifth floor of the Griffon Hotel that faces the pier, detailed what she witnessed that evening. Moreno’s room had three large windows and she said she’d a clear visit of Pier 14 that evening after she heard a gunshot. “I heard a very loud upsetting scream of horror, that’s the first thing I heard. Next, I heard a woman screaming for help.”
Moreno said she saw a body lying on the floor, people surrounding the area but noticed only one man leaving the scene.”
During cross examination, Gonzalez focused on raising questions regarding Morano’s memory compared her.
The questions boiled down to whether Morano witnessed Zarate leaving urgently or briskly from the crime scene. Gonzalez continued the same line of questioning with Carpenter, who told police that evening that Zarate appeared like “he didn’t care and was walking slowly.”
During opening statements, Garcia said that Zarate had “fled” the scene, implying that he was running away from a crime.
The last witness of the day was Police Officer Raymond Ortiz, who works at the SFPD Crime Scene Investigation unit. The court saw a 20-minute video of the crime scene with images of Steinle’s beige sweater covered in blood, her sandals at a distance near a puddle of blood.
The testimony today portrayed an image of Zarate that make him look erratic, indifferent, and unhinged. Gonzalez says that’s contrary to what the prosecution has been alleging that he intentionally aimed and shot Steinle.
Ortiz will continue his testimony tomorrow.