Why was Garcia Zarate charged with murder?

Jury verdict shows that the DA's case was shaky, at best -- so why did Gascon pursue this?

There’s only one conclusion I can reach from the outcome of the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate:

This case should never have been charged as murder. Maybe it never should have been charged at all.

Court clerk reads the verdict as Matt Gonzales and Jose Ines Garcia Zarate look on

Zarate, as the national and local news have now reported at length, was acquitted of all the serious charges this afternoon. The jury deliberated for six days, a long time in a case like this. The six men and six women went over the evidence carefully. And they concluded that there was no way Garcia Zarate was a killer.

On the day the trial opened, I asked District Attorney George Gascon if he thought the case was properly charged. At that point, the prosecution was asking for second-degree murder; after the evidence was presented, Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia moved to add First Degree Murder to the charges.

Gascon told me he though the charges were proper and that the evidence would support them. That’s what Garcia said in her opening statement.

Now: Jury trials can lead to unexpected verdicts, but in this case, we had a San Francisco jury, of mixed ethnicity, accepted by both sides. I was there for much of the trial, and my colleague Sana Saleem was there for the rest; 48hills didn’t miss a day.

And I walked away thinking: There’s no evidence to prove murder. It wasn’t even close.

Gascon and Garcia knew what the evidence was going into the trial. They knew what the defense was going to argue. Perry Mason aside, there are not typically a lot of secrets in criminal cases, not a lot of sudden revelations that one side or the other introduces at the last minute.

Diana Garcia is a seasoned and experienced prosecutor, and nobody can say she bungled the case. She was polished and presented the evidence as well as anyone could in her position.

Judge Samuel Feng was, overall, extremely favorable to the prosecution. There’s no way anyone could argue that he was too pro-defense in his rulings.

Garcia Zarate was lucky to be charged in San Francisco, where the Public Defender’s Office provides better representation that a lot of the most high-priced private lawyers around. Matt Gonzales and Francisco Ugarte, representing Garcia Zarate, brilliantly took the prosecution’s case apart, bit by bit, and in closing arguments, debunked the entire murder theory.

But in the end, that was going to happen. The evidence didn’t support the charges.

In his opening statement, Gonzalez asked: If the person who picked up what turned out to be a gun that went off by accident had been a white person, would this even be a murder case?

Did the fact that he was an undocumented immigrant whose role in the death of Steinle became a major national issue play into the fact that he was charged with a crime that would be very, very hard to prove?

What would have happened if they DA had said that, at worst, this was involuntary manslaughter?

Gascon comes from a Cuban immigrant family. He supports Sanctuary City. He’s not a right-winger at all. In some ways, he’s been a pretty good DA.

But I have to keep coming back to the facts of the case.

In her closing argument, Garcia (whose parents were also immigrants) said that the defendant picked up the gun and carried it to the pier intending to shoot someone because “that would give him power.”

There’s nothing in his history or the trial record that supports her claim. The Mexican immigrant with a second-grade education has no history of violent crime. That was just radical over-reach. In fact, in his closing, Gonzalez argued that the case should never have been charged as murder.

What was going on here?

As has been typical from the start of the trial, Gonzalez, Ugarte, and their boss, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, took the time to talk to reporters and take questions. Gonalzes offered his condolences to the Steinle family, and pointed out that the acquittal of his client doesn’t change the fact that the family has suffered a terrible loss.

Ugarte noted that this case “was used to foment hate, division, and mass deportations.”

In a nice touch, Gonzales noted that if the president and vice president of the United States decide to criticize this verdict, they should remember that they are under investigation by a special prosecutor and might at some point want to respect the concept of due process, the presumption of innocent, and the right to trial by jury.

Garcia and Gascon did not speak to the press after the verdict. Alex Bastian, a spokesperson for the DA, said this wasn’t the verdict that they wanted, but didn’t go much beyond that.

But this is one that Gascon, as an elected official, is going to have to answer for. A huge amount of time and effort – and expense – went into putting an immigrant on trial for murder without a whole lot of evidence to support that.

What happened to Kate Steinle was a terrible tragedy. The way her death became a political issue (thanks to Donald Trump) was another terrible tragedy. And this trial? What was the point?

  • Y.

    “moved to ass” should be “moved to add”.

    • sfsquirrel

      I thought maybe that was a Freudian slip.

      It seems odd at best that the DA was able to amend the charges to include first degree, particularly after so much evidence had come in. Makes me wonder if it was a last-ditch effort to get the jury to convict on manslaughter as a compromise.

      • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

        Exactly…

        Even though the DA must have known that it would be vulnerable to attack on appeal.

        Of course, that would not be “doing justice,” as the DA is ethically required to do.

        But, the DA wanted the compromise verdict, because even if Zarate won an appeal and his conviction were reversed – at least he would have served around the years required for a manslaughter sentence.

        In other words, the DA is happy when a defendant (later found by the appeals court to have been not guilty) serves time.

        • Venlin

          Courts of Appeals do NOT make determinations of guilt or innocence, they make rulings on whether an error of law or legal procedure occurred, and whether a defendant is either entitled to a new trial or in less common circumstances whether charges should be thrown out.

          • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

            “Courts of Appeals do NOT make determinations of guilt or innocence…”

            I agree. I never said they do.

            “Also, no DA is ethically required to consider whether a verdict could possibly be overturned on appeal.”

            Actually they are ethically required to do just that.

            Each attorney has an ethical obligation to competently represent its client. The DA works for the state. Therefore, the DA has to consider the effects of possible appeals on the state, its client, in deciding what tactics to take in trial court.

          • Venlin

            I think you are confusing issues. They are required to follow legal precedent and to in all other areas follow the law, but as long as they reasonably believe they are doing so, they are not required to consider that an Appeals Court could overturn a verdict. There is potential for that to happen with any case.

            If you mean they should not bring a frivolous case, then yes, but that is already covered by their duty to have a good faith belief in the charges and a reasonable belief that the evidence could potentially support a conviction.

            And, yes, the DA represents the state. No one said they did not.

            Most DAs, and most defense attorneys, are extremely ethical and they engage in a professional and collegial relationship with the opposing side. Many DAs and defense attorneys are often good friends. They are also committed to adhering to their ethical duties and following the law and faithfully representing their client.

            Again, our legal system is intentionally set up so that most cases are difficult to prove and to favor the defendant. We would rather some people who are factually guilty go free, then convict an innocent person. So, it does not, in and of itself, show a defect in a case when a jury acquits. An acquittal is not a factual determination of innocence.

          • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

            “I think you are confusing issues. They are required to follow legal
            precedent and to in all other areas follow the law, but as long as they
            reasonably believe they are doing so, they are not required to consider that an Appeals Court could overturn a verdict.”

            You’re
            confusing the issues. I’m not talking about their duty to follow the
            law, I’m talking about their duty to competently represent their client.

            Lets say, for example, that the DA knows the defense lawyer
            has a conflict of interest. The DA will probably bring a motion to
            recuse that attorney from representing the defendant because, if they
            didn’t, and if they went to trial and won a guilty verdict, the
            conviction based thereon would be in jeopardy due to the defense seeking
            a reversal on ineffective assistance of counsel grounds arising from
            the conflict of interest afflicting the defense attorney at trial. In
            actuality this is the only way a DA even has standing to get rid of a
            defense attorney – it’s due to their client’s interest in a final
            judgment.

            In such an instance, the DA would not be competently
            representing the state if the DA did not consider the effect an appeal
            would have on the judgment. All ethical lawyers consider the effect of a
            subsequent appeal on a particular issue before they pursue a course of
            action in trial court.

          • Venlin

            You are being disingenuous. Your argument was supposedly DAs intentionally bring cases they know will be overturned on appeal just for the purpose of keeping supposedly innocent people in jail for a period of time. Then, you try to argue that of course any competent DA would consider the chance of a case being overturned on appeal because they have an obligation to their client, the state, to consider it. So, which one is it? You are contradicting yourself.

            You also claim you “never said” that Appeals court determine guilt or innocence when your original comment states “later found by the appeals court to have been not guilty.” Again, Appeals court rule on errors of law or legal procedure they do not render verdicts as to whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty.

          • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

            You’re right, I did say the appeals court found him not guilty. That was a poor choice of words and intended as shorthand for “the appeals court ordered a new trial and the defendant was found not guilty at the new trial.” I’m sorry for not being clear on that.

          • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

            “DAs intentionally bring cases they know will be overturned on appeal
            just for the purpose of keeping supposedly innocent people in jail for a
            period of time.”

            This is rare, but may have happened in the Zarate case out of desperation to get a guilty “compromise” verdict on one of the homicide counts due to how high profile the case is. Is that ethical? Maybe not, if the DA sacrificed its client’s interest in the finality of the judgment. In reality it doesn’t matter much because the ploy didn’t work.

            I don’t see the contradiction you point out – unless you think DA’s never violate the rules of ethics. However, DA’s violate the rules of ethics quite often – as it suits them. The client – who is some discarnate municipal corporation – isn’t going to come stomping into their office complaining, especially if the defendant has to sit in jail while his appeal is being briefed and the case wasn’t worth more than a manslaughter conviction in any event.

          • Venlin

            Yes, you are correct it is rare. And, it would also be highly unethical to bring a case against a defendant if the DA did not have a good faith belief in the charges and a reasonable belief the evidence could support a conviction.

            Also, I never said DAs never violate ethics rules. Defense attorneys also violate ethics rules. However, it is uncommon for either DAs or defense attorneys to intentionally violate ethics rules. You are simply making a false statement saying that DAs “violate rules of ethics quite often–as it suits them.” I highly doubt you believe most DAs you encounter in court are unethical individuals. This is not Law & Order and I am not a jury member you need to impress with an emotional argument.

            Most DAs, like most defense attorneys, are ethical individuals and they respect the legal process and also respect the individuals working on the other side.

          • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

            Ok, fair enough. Everyone’s experience and perception in a case is different. My perception is that DAs violate the rules of ethics quite often. You perception is that it doesn’t happen as often as I think it does.

          • Geek__Girl

            But if a case is remanded for retrial, would not the defendant again be presumed innocent until again proven guilty? Would not the remand move the finding of guilt? Otherwise, wouldn’t it be double jeopardy? I remember a death penalty case in Florida, where the behavior of the prosecution, and the police was so outrageous that the appeals court actually urged the state to drop all charges, and not retry. The state refused, but offered a plea deal that if the two defendants plead guilty they would receive time served. Given the choice between spending more time being held, and the possibility of again being sentenced to death, they took the deal, and the state declared the case closed, even though they knew that the two men were innocent. An outrageous case, and one of the reasons I wanted to get out of Florida. It was not the only time that someone was prosecuted that was clearly innocent. The other involved a teen was charged with, and convicted of a robbery in spite of a pretty solid alibi, and mainly because the detectives son didn’t like him, and suggested to his father than he was a likely suspect. He was some distance away at a family dinner, and the state claimed he had drove to the crime scene, robbed the woman, and drove back to the restaurant while he was “take a smoke break.” There was no real evidence, and he had taken a trial by judge because of the flakiness of some juries. The judge was completely biased. I left before the appeal was heard.

          • Venlin

            Double-jeopardy refers to a legal procedural defense that prevents a defendant from being tried on the same (or similar) charges after acquittal or conviction.

            Again, a Court of Appeals rules on issues of subtantive legal or procedural matters, not on the question of guilt or innocence. If a Court of Appeals were to find a defendant factually innocent, then there would be no second trial at all.

            The Florida case sounds interesting, and it is probably a good reason for you not to live in Florida. Although, personally, I could not live there because I dislike the heat and humidity. It is a nice place to visit, though.

          • Geek__Girl

            Double jeopardy is found in the Constitution. It is not “just” a procedural defense, it is a given right. I realize that appellate courts do no rule on guilty or innocence. They remand for retrial, and it is up to the prosecution to decide if it is worth proceeding. In many cases, they find that the evidence that resulted in a conviction was invalid, and the prosecution has nothing left. It happens a lot. Or, if the case was a long time back, the witnesses may have died, or are no longer reliable.

            It was one of MANY reasons that I wanted to leave Florida. We originally moved there to be near my parents, specifically my mother, who was in declining health. Also, I thought it would be nice to escape the relatively harsh winters in Alabama. I don’t care for heat or humidity, but Alabama has it during the summer. In Florida, it is more year-round. Also Florida is incredibly flat. Almost no hills at all. And those that exist are not even really hills. In fact, I got a laugh out of them selling “Citrus Hill” orange juice. It was actually named for the person who originally owned the groves. And it was produced in a plant that looked more like an oil refinery. The commercials featured an elderly man explaining to his grandson how it takes a year of sunshine to produce the orange juice…that, and an enormous processing plant.

            In fact, the only thing I really miss is being able to buy fresh squeezed orange juice at a very reasonable price.

          • Venlin

            Geek Girl, I don’t think we are in disagreement. Yes, I realize it is a Constitutional issue, but that does not contradict what I wrote. My point is that when an appellate court orders a new trial, it is not finding a defendant innocent, it is making a determination that there was an error with the trial and that a new one is needed. Also, there are actually many cases where a new trial is held and the defendant is re-convicted.

            I enjoy fresh orange, too–and fresh oranges.

          • Geek__Girl

            Yes, it was not the only reason I left Florida, but it contributed significantly. This was back in the 1980’s, and it has only become worse. I am originally from Alabama, so the heat and humidity was not that unusual, except it was more like year-round. Florida is incredibly flat. After a while, it really gets to you.

      • Geek__Girl

        I was surprised by that. It struck me as being questionable both on the part of the prosecution, and on the part of the judge. If a prosecutor has not established prima facie when they are finished with their case, the judge is supposed to dismiss the case, and jeopardy will have attached. I felt, and still do, that such a move was a serious breach of ethics.

  • Y.

    They had no choice, with the whole right wing country waiting to crucify San Francisco.

    Now that the jury found Zarate innocent, they can at worst blame 12 people. If the prosecutor had only charged him with involuntary manslaughter or declined to press charges at all, that would have been taken, along with the Sanctuary City policy, as a proof that San Francisco excuses criminals and needs to be punished, along with other sanctuary cities. As it was, Sessions could muster no more than to say that if SF had reported Zarate to ICE, this wouldn’t have happened. In other words, there was nothing he could do with the court’s decision for political gain.

    I suspect that the DA felt compelled to make the best case for murder they could muster and let the chips fall where they may. We may not know for sure for many years.

    • bkochandco

      They acquitted him, not found him innocent. A huge difference in the eyes of the law.

      • Geek__Girl

        Only if you feel the need to play games with semantics. He cannot be tried again for the same charges, he is not guilty of the crime. How is it any different from being found innocent?

  • Porfirio666

    “Now: Jury trials can lead to unexpected verdicts.”

    Obviously. OJ Simpson comes to mind.

    • Do Something Nice

      Dan White and George Zimmerman come to mind.

      • curiousKulak

        Are you making his point?

      • Geek__Girl

        Dan White was a different time. San Francisco had a lot of conservatives then. He killed the first gay supervisor. That pleased some people. And George Zimmerman? That was in Florida, which is, sadly, a very messed up place. I lived there for five years, and was extremely happy the day I left.

    • Rosh HoshHosh

      Don’t forget Rodney King.

      • Geek__Girl

        That case was won largely because the defense played the video in slow motion, over, and over, and over.. It gave jurors the impression that it was not nearly as brutal as it really was. A screwy strategy, but it seems to have worked.

    • tonyj123

      It was witnesses like Mark Fuhrman who pushed the trail to it’s conclusion. A lot of people expected that verdict.

      • Porfirio666

        Absolutely. OJ was innocent.

        • Geek__Girl

          It is more like the DA and police tried to frame a guilty man. In truth, we may never know who committed the murder. There are alternate theories that do make sense, and are possible, but the LAPD made it impossible to get a conviction.

          • Porfirio666

            Yes, DNA evidence has been totally debunked. My chem trail studies suggest that OJ’s first wife did it.

          • Geek__Girl

            No, but DNA evidence is worthless when the blood is planted, Or, when the police do not follow proper chain of custody procedures. Or when it is found that the blood sample being analyzed contain the same chemical used to preserve blood samples. Rather lame attempt to dodge the facts. You actually sound like someone who believes in chem trails.

          • Porfirio666

            I totally agree. OJ was innocent. Same with Lee Harvey Oswald. And Caligula.

    • Geek__Girl

      OJ was not at all unexpected. I watched as the police were caught having tampered with evidence, over and over. The jury had no other choice.

      • Porfirio666

        Yes, not at all unexpected. Glad we agree.

        • Geek__Girl

          No, we don’t agree. You approach from a point of view that is insane. I am looking at facts. You think the jury ignored evidence, I think they looked at the evidence, and said “Enough!”

          • Porfirio666

            The insanity approach, is it?

          • Geek__Girl

            Yes, your view is rooted in ugly racism and hatred. You want to ignore the misconduct of the LAPD and DA’s office in the OJ case.

          • Porfirio666

            Just to reiterate, I really do believe that OJ was innocent in that trail. Mr. Brown did it with a knife in the dining room, according to Col. Mustard.

  • Alfiejr

    does anyone here really believe this case would have ever been prosecuted if it had instead been a pretty young blond white woman who picked up a wrapped up gun from a bench with a hair trigger that went off and fired a bullet that ricocheted off the pavement to strike and kill a brown guy boarder crasher???????

    you know damn well that never would have happened.

    • bkochandco

      Good point. I concur.

    • playland

      Someone was holding a gun that fired and the bullet killed someone. He then threw the gun into the bay and left the scene. When caught by the police he gave conflicting stories about what happened, including a version saying that he fired the gun intentionally.

      And you really think that he shouldn’t have been prosecuted? They just should have let him go? Come on.

      I do think that if it were a US citizen who was homeless that they would have gone for manslaughter and be done with it. The murder charge was only because of the high profile nature of the case IMHO.

      And if the roles were reversed with the pretty blonde doing the shooting then nobody capable of rational thought would believe that she reached down, picked up a dirty t shirt (with something heavy in it) off the ground and raised it to knee level. There was an excellent chance that the content of the t shirt involved human feces.

      • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

        A prosecution for manslaughter was reasonable.

        But, as always, the DA over charged for illegitimate reasons, i.e., for bail to be high, enourage a compromise verdict, etc.

      • Alfiejr

        but she wouldn’t be homeless to start with, would she?. he was. so he was scavenging and checking out anything. get real.

        • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

          Good point. Some people are utterly incapable of walking in another’s shoes…

          • Rosh HoshHosh

            Poor point. Being pretty is no guarantee to stave off homelessness.

          • Alfiejr

            Ha Ha Ha! Sure, look at all the handsome/pretty homeless folks out their with good teeth, nice haircuts, and nice clothes!

          • Rosh HoshHosh

            I don’t critique the homeless on their appearance.

          • Alfiejr

            so what?

          • Geek__Girl

            Actually, they do exist. You don’t notice them. They are, in effect, the “stealth homeless.” Although thanks to changes in various programs, they tend to have more trouble maintaining that illusion. Newsom cut the money they could use to maintain their appearance.

        • curiousKulak

          It was only postulated that the gun coulda gone off – not that that’s what happened. Lawyerly room-for-doubt.

          As a scavenger, one has to be much more mindful of what one put ones hands on – garbage cans are full of glass and other unpleasant surprised; public areas as well.

          Or are you saying that Stupid was someone that would put anything in his mouth?

          • Alfiejr

            how dumb a reply. you homeless?

      • Rosh HoshHosh

        Right that it would have been a gross miscarriage of justice for the DA not to put the decision in the hands of a jury.

        • Geek__Girl

          No, not really…

    • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

      You meant like Dick Cheney accidentally shooting that guy in the face?

      He didn’t face any charges, did he?

      • curiousKulak

        You’re making his point

        • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

          What – that a manslaughter as a top charge would be reasonable?

          I’m not saying manslaughter was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. To the contrary, it was not.

          • curiousKulak

            That white ppl firing guns don’t face charges, but the brown ppl do.

          • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

            Now I see what you are saying, curiousKulak. That kind of racial charging discrimination may happen with DAs in other areas of the country, but not in SF.

            In SF, I haven’t seen such racial disparity when it comes to deciding whether to bring charges or not – but, one thing is for sure, if the suspect has a badge (no matter his/her race), he/she won’t be charged.

            In SF, a badgeless shooting suspect is charged if there is some evidence he/she shot the gun regardless of any mitigating factors in defense.

            By contrast, in SF, if there is evidence a shooting suspect with a badge shot a gun, the DA will investigate whether it should charge – sometimes for years. It will give full consideration of possible defenses. Then, two years later, if the investigation finds even a slight whiff of a defense, the DA will not charge the shooter with a badge.

            Basically, when the shooter has a badge, the SF DA will fantasize a jury trial, assign a defense and no matter how weak the defense is likely to be in a real trial, the DA will determine it cannot win a trial and justify its decision not to even charge that way. It’s basically the opposite of what they did with Zarate – for him it was like “sure we don’t have a snowballs chance in hell of winning murder at trial – but, since he doesn’t have a badge, we’ll force him to rot in jail and go to trial anyway.

            Basically, the DA forgets it has an ethical duty to only charge when it has probable cause if the suspect doesn’t have a badge.

            However, if the suspect has a badge, then, the DA suddenly and innacurately remembers its ethical duty as really meaning it can only charge those with badges with crimes if they wouldn’t have even a whiff of a defense at trial.

            That’s the SF style of discrimination – people with badges v. people without badges – at least when it comes to charging decisions.

            Now bail, that’s another story. That’s most certainly racial discrimination, but it’s also more broadly socio-economic discrimination – the most pervasive discrimination in the country.

      • Rosh HoshHosh

        Hunting accidents where a hunter shoots a person (often a friend) are extremely common. Usually the hunter will walk – even if they are charged – as long as their only negligence was the accidental shooting.

        • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

          Yup. It’s amazing how all the gun enthusiasts are lining up in a chorus to say there are no gun accidents. Lol. Then, go to a gun enthusiast internet message board or blog and you see all these topics discussing unintentional discharges – even sometimes ones in which the gun owner insists the gun went off but he didn’t pull the trigger!

          Then a poor, ugly old brown man accidentally kills a well off, beautiful white young woman with a gun and it’s like: “guns don’t just shoot themselves!”

          Lol. The rascism and duplicitous bullshit is so obvious.

          • Rosh HoshHosh

            I’ve just returned from WI where every Thanksgiving includes their 9 day rifle permitted deer hunt (deer camp). It is rare that someone is not killed by another hunter during these nine days. It is unheard of that someone is not wounded.

          • curiousKulak

            Was it proven that the gun went off accidentally? Or was it argued that purposeful firing “beyond a reasonable doubt” was not proven?

          • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

            curiousKulak, due to the burden of proof being on the prosecution, it must disprove beyond a reasonable doubt any possible defenses, so the latter. While a defendant may present evidence in defense, the defendant has no burden of proof.

          • Geek__Girl

            Does it really matter. Suffice to say, it was never proven that the firing was purposeful, an it was shown that the gun was fired while Zarate was bent over, apparently picking the gun up, and while it was very close to where it had been laying. I have yet to see anyone explain why someone would deliberately fire a hand gun while holding it inches off the pier.

          • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

            Good point solidly backed up by actual evidence from the trial.

          • Geek__Girl

            Thank you.

          • Geek__Girl

            No bloody kidding!!!!! And NO ONE has ever said the gun went off by itself.

        • Geek__Girl

          Yes, they are. I remember coming home from school and seeing my uncle’s car. That seemed odd, and when I walked in, my father was sitting with his arm in a sling. He had been shot while hunting. My father, my uncle, and a third guy were hunting squirrels. They were spread out among the trees. My father was wearing a gray glove, and moved his hand on the tree he was next to. The third man fired. Fortunately he was far enough away that the shot was spread out quite a bit. My father received quite a few shotgun pellets from his hand down to his leg. As my uncle said, “Well, you can always tell your father he has lead in his butt,” He would up having to have surgery on his hand because some of the shot was irritating his nerves, but was otherwise okay. I also learned that my childhood dentist was killed while deer hunting. I was told it was an accident. I looked at the person telling me, and said “Are you really sure?” Suffice to say, I did not like him.

    • Geek__Girl

      Absolutely not. And those who are so virulently hateful against Zarate would be saying she acted ni self-defense, and was an excellent shot.

  • bkochandco

    Why did Gascon pursue this prosecution? Because he has aspersions to higher office and thought he could hitch his wagon to tRump’s racist, xenophobic agenda and win. Disgusting!

    • curiousKulak

      Higher office? Where? In TX? FL? AZ?!

      Certainly not in SF or CA or, probably, NV.

      I have no idea why he did what he did. But Murder-1 was a stretch.

  • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

    Tim Redmond asked the very pertinent question: “…so why did Gascon pursue this?”

    It all comes down to money.

    Gascon has to bring as many charges as possible to justify his bloated budget and that of the cops.

    That’s why when Gascon says all kinds of things that make sense in press conferences, his line attorneys who are in court day in and day out do the opposite.

  • SF Sunset Guy

    “In a nice touch, Gonzales noted that if the president and vice president of the United States decide to criticize this verdict, they should remember that they are under investigation by a special prosecutor and might at some point want to respect the concept of due process, the presumption of innocent, and the right to trial by jury.”

    How is that a nice touch? I haven’t seen any reasonable person say the process or constitutional protections are the problem, only the verdict.

    • disqus_er3g2byx2B

      Not clear on how the verdict would be a problem to anyone who believes the process and constitutional protections are reasonable.

      • SF Sunset Guy

        really? The verdict is a problem because a manslaughter conviction was appropriate and warranted.

        Due process and constitutional protections are reasonable, necessary and crucial, of course. Why are the two conflated in your view?

        Just as stated in my original post.

        • Geek__Girl

          No, YOU and quite a few others have a problem with the verdict. You were not a member of the jury, which is good, because you were not remotely qualified to be a juror as you had already made up your mind. Clearly, the jury, which heard ALL the evidence, heard all the witnesses, and who deliberated for several days, came to a conclusion that offends you. Tough. Get over it.

        • joe pineapple

          they didnt get manslaughter because the inept prosecutors were hellbent on conjuring up a motive which they presented 0 evidence of. russian roulette and shooting someone to feel power are not accidental nor involuntary. jury had no choice on account of the prosecutors paving the wrong path. (intentional)

    • Geek__Girl

      ROTFL! Not very many reasonable people have weighed in on this.

  • curiousKulak

    “Maybe it never should have been charged at all.”

    Yeah, thats the spririt – lets let all the hit-n-run drivers just ‘do their thing’.

    Wait – I thought we usually expected them to stick around and appear contrite (and hopefully not too inebriated).

    • Geek__Girl

      Zarate was not drunk.

  • curiousKulak

    Gascon – who’s gonna challenge him? He got SF the verdict it wanted. He’s got a job for life here.

  • John Doe

    “Involuntary manslaughter – the unintentional death of an individual as a result of another person’s negligent actions”. So I found this at a legal reference dictionary. My one question is, even supposing the defense’s story is 100% accurate, does Zarate’s self confessed accidental firing of a weapon, which resulted in the death of a woman, not match the aforementioned definition of involuntary manslaughter?

    • worriedcriminaldefenseattorney

      Accident is not negligence.

    • disqus_er3g2byx2B

      Because involuntary manslaughter would have required the defendant knowing he was pulling the trigger of a loaded gun and that someone might get injured. The jury found that the evidence did not support this. There was a grainy surveillance video, which showed the defendant stooping to pick up something at the spot a group of younger men had left something earlier in the day. The defendant, who is homeless, said he picked up a wadded, discarded shirt from the street; that it contained the gun; and that the gun, which has a hair trigger, went off when he fumbling through the shirt. The police did not find powder residue on him consistent with him holding the gun. So, this could have happened when anyone picked up or fumbled through the shirt on the street, e.g., a Public Works employee. It’s truly a horrible tragedy. The only way it might have been avoided would have been if the federal agent had either locked his car door, not left his gun in a backpack under the driver’s seat, not left the gun’s safety off, not kept a live round chambered in the barrel, or, given that he was traveling with his family, including his small children, kept his gun in a lock box in his trunk. The insane part of this whole thing is that there is zero conversation about gun owners maintaining control over their weapons by keeping them locked.

      • SF Sunset Guy

        please define “hair trigger” for us. Guns don’t “go off”, they’re fired.Using the trigger.

        How is it that the only blame rests with someone whose car was broken into?

        Where did you get that a/ the car was unlocked b/ the gun had a safety c/ the SUV had a trunk? How come this guy’s sloppy actions represents all gun owners?

        • disqus_er3g2byx2B

          Reread my post. I did not say what you say I said.

          I did not blame the death on the federal agent, traveling with his small children, who left his gun unlocked under the front seat of his car with a bullet chambered. I said that the only way the death could have been avoided would have been if the gun had been secured in the first place. It was not. If it had been secured, then it would not have been stolen. And it would never have been on the street wrapped in a wadded up shirt for someone to pick up and then fumble. It is undeniable that securing one’s weapons with a trigger lock or in a lock box is the surest safety practice when not actually using one’s weapons.

          One could argue that the careless federal agent, the car thieves, and the homeless man are all to blame. But what can one do? Anyone—a child, a DPW worker—might have found and fumbled that gun and it might have gone off. Someone else, with a history of violence, might have found it and shot several people intentionally. So, prevent the unlocked weapon from ending up on the street in the first place. Is it more reasonable to encourage gun owners to secure their weapons or more reasonable to encourage car thieves to turn stolen weapons over to police? How would you keep the gun from the scene in the first place?

          As for guns going off unintentionally, they do. The federal agents’ own unit had prior incidents with this gun model, which, according to 49hills, the public defender introduced as evidence at trial. What’s the simplest way to prevent this? Encourage people to use trigger locks and discourage people from pre-chambering rounds. I do not recall whether the gun’s safety was off or the gun had no safety. It’s been awhile since I’ve read the earlier pieces in the trial series. Either way, a trigger lock would have prevented this tragedy.

        • Geek__Girl

          The gun in question requires considerably less force to move the trigger in single action mode than in double action. The BLM agent admitted he had loaded the gun, chambered a round, and then added another bullet to the magazine. When asked if he had de-cocked the gun, he said that was the normal practice. He never said “Yes, I know I did.” I suspect he was insane enough to leave it cocked so he could fire quickly. This is based partially on the fact that he also failed to put the supplied lock on the gun, which would have prevented anyone stealing it from easily using it. Now, again, this was a person who was OFF duty, and in route to an assignment. He was also traveling with his fiancé, and children WHY would he remotely needed a fully loaded gun, ready to fire, unlocked, etc. in such a circumstance. This would be the equivalent of a police officer leaving a fully loaded gun in easy reach of a child.

    • Geek__Girl

      No, it doesn’t.

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  • joe pineapple

    In her closing argument, Garcia (whose parents were also immigrants)
    said that the defendant picked up the gun and carried it to the pier
    intending to shoot someone because “that would give him power.”
    with statements like this, it becomes more evident the SF prosecutors intentionally botched the trial, Garcia loses credibility when deciding to speak for Zarate. RIP Kate,

    • Geek__Girl

      I don’t think they deliberately botched it. Gascon played to the moderates, and wound up looking like a fool.

      • joe pineapple

        cruddy prosecutors, “russian roulette, shoot to give him power” silly dramatic arguments. no wonder her parents stayed home. RIP Kate

        • Geek__Girl

          In some states, that would have been a winning strategy. The jury would have eaten it up, and returned a verdict of guilty with almost no deliberation.

  • Don Sebastopol

    “As we all know, criminals with hot guns they’ve stolen are notorious for
    disposing of them by setting them down under chairs at tourist
    attractions next to the Bay. They would never throw the stolen gun
    into the Bay like Garcia Zarate did or drop it in a trash bin. They
    just put them down under chairs in touristy spots.”