The jury selection process in the case of Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate's alleged murder of Kate Steinle has crossed another milestone today, as prospective jurors sat before a San Francisco Superior Court judge for a series of interviews that will help narrow down the juror pool even further.
According to the Examiner, also present was chief attorney of the SF Public Defender's Office, Matt Gonzalez, who instructed the jurors to take the immigration debate "off the table" when considering Garcia-Zarate's case. The Chronicle reports that District Attorney Diana Garcia shared the same sentiments, as she told the jurors, "A lot of you are angry that this has been used to promote a political agenda that you do not agree with. I'm here to tell you that that will not be a part of the case."
Previously, Garcia-Zarate's case made headlines as politicians debated immigration policy; Garcia-Zarate represented an extreme example of the dangers of becoming a sanctuary city, as he's an undocumented immigrant. The Chron explains that Garcia-Zarate was "on track for a sixth deportation after serving 46 months in prison for felony re-entry into the country."
Kate Steinle's father, Jim Steinle, has asked multiple times that her case not be used for political purposes. Despite the fact that the law calling for harsher punishment for deoprted immigrants re-entering the country is called "Kate's Law," Steinle has gone on the record to say that their family had nothing to do with its naming.
As the Examiner tells it, Judge Samuel K. Feng, who oversaw this round of interviews, told the prospective jurors, "Mr. Garcia Zarate's status is not an issue. It is not to be considered in any way by you." One of Gonzalez's interview questions pertaining to the political furor even drew laughs, as he asked, "Would anybody be less likely to return a verdict because they knew the president of the U.S. didn't like it?"
Also present was Garcia-Zarate himself, who, according to KRON 4, claimed that the shooting was "accidental" and pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing.