Before the killing of Kate Steinle, the Mexican national Jose Inez Garcia Zarate had been deported five times.
On Friday a U.S. District Judge ruled that Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, the Mexican national found not guilty of gunning down Kate Steinle in San Francisco in 2015, is incompetent to stand trial on federal gun charges.
Judge Vince Chhabria, a 2013 appointee of President Obama, cited “mental illness that is not presently being treated.” Garcia-Zarate’s attorney Tony Serra disputed the ruling and claimed his client was competent and deserved a hearing.
San Francisco had custody of Garcia Zarate, one of the previously deported felon’s many aliases, but declined to turn him over to federal officials. On July 1, 2015 on Pier 14 in San Francisco, Garcia Zarate discharged a firearm and the bullet claimed the life of Kate Steinle, 32, walking with her father and a friend at the time.
In November of 2017, a San Francisco jury of six men and six women, including three immigrants, found Garcia Zarate not guilty of the murder of Kate Steinle. The jury also found Garcia Zarate not guilty of all manslaughter charges and guilty only of felony possession of a firearm.
“For those who might criticize this verdict – there are a number of people who have commented on this case in the last couple of years,” Garcia Zarate’s attorney Matt Gonzalez said after the verdict, “the Attorney General of the United States and the President and Vice President of the United States. Let me just remind them, they are themselves under investigation by a special prosecutor in Washington D.C. and they may soon avail themselves of the presumption of innocence beyond a reasonable doubt, so I ask that they reflect on that before they comment or disparage the results of this case.”
“From day one this case was used as a means to foment hate, to foment division and to foment a program of mass deportation,” added defense attorney Francisco Ugarte. “It was used to catapult a presidency along that philosophy of hate of others. I believe today is a day of vindication for the rights of immigrants.”
Many observers decried the verdict as a travesty of justice, but they were mistaken if they thought it could not get any worse. California’s First District Court of Appeals ruled that the judge had improperly instructed the jury and overturned Garcia Zarate’s gun conviction.
Garcia Zarate still faced federal gun charges.
The Sig Sauer pistol used in the killing was stolen from a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger. Garcia Zarate claimed he found the weapon, and that it discharged when he picked it up.
Garcia Zarate, a Mexican national, faced two counts of illegal gun possession and was due for trial in January. Judge Chhabria posted the trial over concerns about “apparent mental illness.” After a hearing on the defendant’s competency, it remains to be decided whether he gets treatment locally or in a federal facility outside of California.
Before the killing of Kate Steinle, the Mexican national Garcia Zarate had been deported five times.