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Home Featured Zarate trial day two: Guns, accidents, and mental health

Zarate trial day two: Guns, accidents, and mental health

Jury selection questions reflect key issues that will come up at trial

The Zarate defense team: Matt Gonzalez (left) and Francisco Ugarte

The issues in the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate came further into focus today as defense lawyer Matt Gonzalez asked the jurors questions that reflect some of what the defense will be arguing.

He started the second day of jury selection by telling the prospective jurors that Zarate’s mental health will not be a key part of the defense. On the other hand, he said, “it’s anticipated that you will see a lengthy interview with the police. You may decide that there were mental-health issues.”

The Zarate defense team: Matt Gonzalez (left) and Francisco Ugarte

The interview took place late at night, and at times Zarate fell asleep. He was rambling and not always coherent. Some of the things he said to the officers were clearly wrong.

Yet his statements will be a key part of the prosecution case, and the questions by Gonzalez were a signal to jurors that there is room to be skeptical about the interrogation.

“If you see someone walking, and they are limping, even if you don’t have medical evidence, you can infer that they are injured,” he said.

He raised the language issue, which came up in pre-trial motions, when the defense argued that the police mangled Zarate’s Miranda warning. “If you were having a conversation with someone and they didn’t understand what you were saying, what inference might you draw?” he asked.

And he quoted one prospective juror’s comments from the jury-pool questionnaire: “Some people with mental illness might not understand what an officer is saying.”

It’s not clear what evidentiary issues might come up, but Gonzalez hinted that there may be challenges to what the prosecution presents. “If someone said they were never in this courtroom, but their fingerprint is in the room, which would you favor?” he asked a potential juror. “You might think the witness is lying, or just uncertain.”

There’s no doubt from the early questioning that both sides know the credibility of police officers involved in the case will be a major issue. Gonzalez asked the jurors repeatedly if they could consider the testimony of a police officer with the same perspective that they would give to the testimony of anyone else. 

“If it’s demonstrated that the officer did things that are improper, or said things that are not truthful,” a juror might have to call into question their work, he said.

Then we heard about guns.

One of the key issues is whether the gun that killed Kate Steine — stolen from the car of a federal agent by someone other than Zarate — could have discharged by accident.

Gonzalez noted that there are 112 guns for every 100 people in the United States, and asked, “if we have that many guns, is it possible that some of them get into the wrong hands?”

He noted that there are 25,000 car burglaries every year in San Francisco — one of which, of course, involved the gun that killed Steinle — and asked “could someone come across a gun that they didn’t expect to be there?”

The defense is going to argue that Zarate stumbled on the gun on the waterfront, and that it went off by accident. The Sig Sauer weapon has a hair trigger, and no safety. 

Gonzalez noted that there’s a difference between visiting someone’s house and smashing a plate on the floor — and bumping into a table and knocking a plate to the floor by mistake.

“If the shooting was by accident, and the judge told you that’s not a crime, would you be able to follow the judge’s instruction?” he asked a prospective juror. 

Diana Garcia, the prosecution lawyer, objected, saying that Gonzalez has mischaracterized the law. But Judge Samuel Feng allowed the defense to continue.

There was a long discussion about the jurors’ positions on the need for laws that mandate guns be secured if they are left in cars — an indication that the federal agent who left his loaded gun in his car might be in part responsible for the death of Steinle.

Gonzalez ended his questioning by reminding the jurors that due process rights apply to everyone, even if they aren’t citizens.

Numerous prospective jurors were dismissed today, both by the judge and by the prosecution and defense. Both sides get to reject 20 jurors. The process will continue tomorrow.


  1. ROTFL! Now, this shows that she is NOT a JD. I do note that she does not claim to be an attorney. That means, even if she has a JD, she didn’t learn enough to pass the bar exam. There are some really bad law schools that are effectively diploma mills. They take your money, and like certain other profit making schools, they graduate everyone. No lawyer would ever say such a thing. The prosecution has to prove their case, the term is prima facie. It they don’t, the judge has to declare the defendant NOT GUILTY, and the trial ends. It is rarely granted, but the defense usually makes such a motion. Then, all the defense has to do is raise reasonable doubt. For example, in the OJ case, the defense showed that the LAPD and DA’s office had mishandled evidence and the jury had to acquit.

  2. You have spewed filth at numerous people over several sites for days on end. You need to calm down and start behaving like an adult. You are making an utter ass of yourself at this point.

  3. Both the defense and prosecution have to convince a jury, which is more important than “proving a case”. Subtle difference, but that’s what it boils down to.

  4. No, it is simplistic, and ignorant. It ignores evidence, facts, and the presumption of innocence. The prosecution has to prove their case. Not blindly accept your prejudice.

  5. So, when you don’t like the facts, you resort to crap about how I should grow up. No, not ad hominem. You are not thinking, and you are grasping at straws. You are trying to hide your lack of critical thinking skills behind insults, and claiming I used ad hominem when I simply pointed out the flaws in your logic.

  6. You’ve confused a video with a still shot from a tourist.

    There is no video of anyone on the pier.

    You insist that anyone who holds the view that Zarate intentionally fired the weapon is “hateful”.

    How so?

    Is everyone who disagrees with you “hateful”? What does that make you?

    Is your POV the only valid POV? Again, what does that make you?

    I bet you voted for Trump. You sound just like him. Everyone is so meeeaaan and unfaaaaiiiirr and hateful because they don’t agree with you, wahwaahwah.

    Grow up.

  7. I think very carefully, and whether or not his comments are admissible now, I personally believe that his first comments contain the truth. You can disagree, but that you need to continually resort to name calling and ad hominems when people don’t agree with you only speaks to your immaturity, your mental weakness and your lack of education.

    As I said before, grow up.

  8. Sorry to Aquamarine and the Giants,

    I started finishing my posts with ‘Go Giants’ way before they won in 2010. It was meant as a slice of levity in the mostly violent world of online posts.

    I won’t associate the Giants with any post related to this case but I remain convinced that they should spend 250 million of their new found development cash bringing that Japanese kid who is 23 and throws 102.5 mph and hits the ball 500 feet and plays the outfield like Curt Flood.

  9. No, you simply don’t think. You grasp at straws. The statement was made during an improper interview, after the police lied and told him they had the gun, and had found his DNA, and he was scared. This sort of thing leads to frequent false confession because even innocent people want to avoid the death penalty, or a ridiculously long time in prison.

  10. I am simply quoting what the SF Examiner said. I was not there when he showed the video, but clearly, it was not long before she was shot. And most surveillance cameras don’t take movies. Now, as to a) read the SF Examiner, and b) you are grasping at straws in your desperate attempt to avoid anything that doesn’t fit your hateful view.

  11. Isn’t this a still shot taken by a tourist? If there was surveillance footage as you describe, it would have shown the shooting.

  12. Yes, these are carefully crafted pieces, much in the like of the carefully spun and highly biased stories from Fox and MSNBC. These are not journalistic pieces by any means. Would not be published by a legitimate newspaper.

  13. I believe his original statement more than the carefully contrived story the defense is spinning, actually. I think his first words are truth.

  14. Not really. The real question is did he, of his own volition, fire the gun on a crowded pier. How he got it is immaterial. A red herring, meant to deflect blame to the BLM agent whose gun it was.

  15. The facts are that he is a repeat offender, a convicted felon, with serious felony drug charges involving heroin and the manufacture of heroin on his record. He has also violated U.S. immigration law five times.

    He is a criminal who has thumbed his nose at the laws of the United States numerous times. His final act resulted in the killing of a woman, a citizen of this nation, who was walking in on a public pier.

    I’m pretty sure the SF Giants don’t want to be associated with the mindless, cavalier killing of a U.S. citizen.

  16. So, smoke and mirrors, nothing substantive. Plus, limping does not indicate injury. It can indicate a birth defect.

  17. Actually, moments before she was shot, he is on video from a surveillance camera, and it shows him seated, and bent over. Hmmm, that blows a big hole in the prosecutions case.

  18. There is a ‘trial’ to see what can be proven ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ Nothing is proven yet.

    Good thing us casual readers have a pro reader like you looking out for us. You’ve obviously got a firm grip on media bias and due process.

  19. WOW – that is a lot to take in. 40% or so of the $13Million that Matt could have earned with this one case is a lot of money. The fact he was trying to get that money from his employer is another issue. I don’t know the details of the suit, I just read that Jeff Adachi ignored his own department’s rules to allow his political ally and appointee Matt Gonzalez to do this. Progressives should be held accountable, just like everyone else. You are doing a lot of diving to figure out who I am. Why? I am just exercising my 1st Amendment, and have not trolled anyone.

  20. Hey Tony,

    I notice by your time stamp that you’re writing from the East Coast. I like your compact style and the way you only tell half the story. Guessing you learned that in SF. Tell me you’re not Mike Farrah?

    Anyway, I was shocked when Keane attacked Matt for doing the right thing. I mean, he refused to desert a client huddled in the corner against the beasts themselves Willie and his pup, Ed Lee.

    As Jaime said on ‘Blue Bloods’ when he got disciplined for refusing to leave a victim he’d been first on scene to comfort:

    “I’d do it again because it was the right thing to do.”

    Running late.

    Go Giants!


  21. From Peter Keane (San Francisco Ethics Commission) ” It is totally out of line… It is not only a complete conflict, it flies in the face of your loyalty to your main employer, the city. Matt shouldn’t be doing it and Jeff never should have allowed it.”
    “no employee may provide legal advice or legal representation … to any person or entity other than in the employee’s official capacity.” As Adachi explained to Matier & Ross, he allowed Gonzalez’s arrangement because he it seemed like Gonzalez was only acting as an advisor — which obviously wasn’t the case when Gonzalez got up to deliver the opening arguments and cross-examine witnesses in a San Francisco Superior Court last week.
    go Giants.

  22. Jeff Adachi was the biggest promoter of public-sector pension reform in San Francisco. The SEIU destroyed his political career for that reason. Politicians know: you don’t touch the third rail (public-sector unions) if you want to survive.

  23. Go watch this guy!!!

    Seriously, I love sitting on my butt and back seat driving as much as the next person but occasionally I go watch something live to drink in the side action which is often much more illuminating as the part that makes it past editing.

    Side action here is that this guy is not Pablo Escobar.

    This guy doesn’t process like you do.

    Or, at least I hope you don’t see the way he does.

    Guy, he didn’t even have enough self confidence to beg.

    He ate out of trash cans which is probably where he found the gun.

    The prosecution wants to make him out as Trump describes, some kind of rapist/assassin trying to defile America. This guy’s head is lop sided from all his skull fractures.

    Which he got scrounging for food for his entire life.

    Go Giants!


  24. Curious,

    I believe that 4 score and 7 years into that union we had a civil war in which 600,000 of us got killed over a minor border dispute? What was the subject that began the conflict? Using a foreign or native colored peoples as a slave labor force. Moral or not?

    I’m hoping that’s an easy question for you on a ‘yes/no’ basis, Curious.

    Go Giants!

    And, people bitch cause I’m willing to spend a quarter of a billion dollars of the Giants money on the Japanese pitcher/slugger/outfielder so I’m gonna respond.

    You think I’m presumptous to

  25. Curious,

    I believe that 4 score and 7 years into that union we had a civil war in which 600,000 of us got killed over a minor border dispute? What was the subject that began the conflict? Using a foreign or native colored peoples as a slave labor force. Moral or not?

    I’m hoping that’s an easy question for you on a ‘yes/no’ basis, Curious.

    Go Giants!

    And, people bitch cause I’m willing to spend a quarter of a billion dollars of the Giants money on the Japanese pitcher/slugger/outfielder so I’m gonna respond.

    You think I’m presumptuous to spend all of that Giants developer money on a guy who can throw 102.5 mph and hit the ball 500 feet? He’s 6’4″ and weighs 185?

    OK, I’ll toss in a dollar cash and a joint of good weed to seal the deal.



  26. And, Tony …

    “he violated ethics rules right after being hired”

    Really, you know the case, do you?

    He had a case still in trial that involved how Willie Brown’s lackey, Ed Lee (City Administrator at the time I believe) … how Willie and Lee had screwed a young couple of black lawyers (married and, damn, they looked great at the trial). …

    Matt represented them and finished out the case by taking Ed Lee through some embarrassing cross examination on the stand.

    Of course Willie and his people got pissed cause the last thing you want to do is get in a sword fight with Zorro. You’ll only go home with your clothes in tatters.

    So, you flack for the Man, huh Tony? What’s your full name just as a curiosity. Mine is Harold Lee Brown. I like to know who I’m talking to or I tend to think poorly of them when they’re making ad hominum attacks. Identify yourself then say what you want.

    Matt finishes what he starts. He refused to leave his clients w/out their lawyer and I’m guessing that case was also pro bono.

  27. Tony,

    Matt was born June 4th 1965 in McAllen, Texas. He graduated from Stanford Law and passed the California bar in 1990. Thus, he’s got 27 years of practicing law under his belt. And, Green Bay should sign Kaepernick. They are the only team owned by the citizens of their community (town of 105,000 has won something like 15 NFL titles? ).

    I might put Posey at third and keep Belt at 1st. Let the young Japanese pitcher/slugger/outfielder in center and Span, I guess, in left.


  28. I’d reserve my judgment on that.

    US been going strong for 10x longer than EU.

    EU cracking under strain of border-less-ness.

  29. @disqus_lLtycJ2jJu:disqus . Understood. 48 Hills continues to print the defense version of Zarate ‘stumbling’ upon the gun as if it was a proven fact. Casual readers might not be aware that they are being misled.

  30. h. Matt worked for 8 years in the PD office before he became a politician. After 12 years in politics where he became SF’s #1 progressive politician (but had no political future), he was hired by Adachi. At the time it was purely a Political appointment. Period. He accumulated 6 more years in the PD office, even though he violated PD ethics rules right after being hired.
    Two new outfielders, move Buster to first, fix Matt Moore or trade him.

  31. “Stumbling on a gun” is a euphemism for saying he found it and picked it up versus buying it. If I found a gun lying on the street i might pick it up before someone else used it to shoot me. I would probably turn it into the police. What is important is that he did not buy the gun purposely to shoot someone

  32. No, Playland,

    But, it will come out at trial. Already has several times I’m mentioning but I’m old and nearly deaf and in a back seat. Come and watch the process while you can. They’ll be taking lottery numbers in the lobby from 8:30am for the 29 seats allotted to the Public.

    Trust me,. I’ve watched this for almost every session and read everything and watched every documentary and driven the entire border within the last several months and you should go to you tube and watch this movie …



  33. Hey Tony,

    You need more fiber in your diet. And, less Fox News. Gonzalez is where he is because he has 27 years experience defending in trials like this he’s a Stanford grad and whatever of their law review. I’ve been watching these courts for 35 years just as a public observer and I think it is in better shape than it has ever been in all of that time and I attribute that to their presiding judge, Teri Jackson who graduated high school and 15 and starred at Georgetown Law?

    Giants have my permission to spend a quarter billion on the 23 year old Japanese pitcher who throws at 102.5 and runs the outfield like a deer and hits 500 foot home runs.


  34. I am proud to have helped remove Matt from an elected position. But he is still a politician, a proud recipient of a lifetime patronage position courtesy of Jeff Adachi.

  35. I am not sure he stumbled on the gun. I was referring to the article when I used that phrase. Regardless, he shot and killed an innocent woman, and is guilty of a felony.

  36. Can you name one other instance where someone stumbled upon a gun in a crowded area and it accidentally went off?

  37. Why are we so sure that he just ‘stumbled’ on the gun?

    Because he said so?

    He also said that he was shooting at sea lions. He said that he fired the shot that killed Kate Steinle. He said lots of things that we don’t believe. But when he says that he just accidentally stumbled upon the gun we take that one statement as absolute fact?


  38. Gonzalez said:

    “In your questionnaires some of you said that you voted for me when I ran for public office and some of you said that you voted against me. I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who voted against me for helping me to get out of politics.”

    Stifling heat and I left after lunch break.

    Trial could begin as early as tomorrow?

  39. Stumbling upon a gun happens all the time. Same with accidentally firing that gun. I’ve done it dozens of times.

  40. “he stumbled on the gun”

    ??? Did he kick it, and it went off? Thats quite the lawyering, eh?

    Of did he find it, pick it up and it went off? Or did he find it, pick it up, check it out – maybe curious-aim it – and it went off? Or did he find, pick up, find a target and shoot. He certainly didn’t leave alone it where he found it!

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