The national spotlight returns to San Francisco and the trial of an undocumented immigrant that became a flashpoint in the debate over immigration and sanctuary city policies. Monday was the first official day in court for Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, following two years in which he was arraigned and faced preliminary hearings, and following months in which prosecutors and public defenders faced off over the admissibility of various details in the case. As the New York Times and others have reported, Day One in the trial of the murder of 32-year-old Kate Steinle was a dramatic one, featuring the outlines of the competing narratives most of us already know the prosecution says that Garcia Zarate set out intent on killing someone on July 1, 2015, while the defense says that he had only just found the gun moments before the shooting, and that it went off accidentally, and Steinle was killed by a ricocheting bullet.
The Associated Press reports on the emotional testimony of Steinle's father, Jim Steinle, the prosecution's first witness and one of the last people to see his daughter alive. Steinle had been with his daughter on Pier 14, standing beside her, when he says he heard "a loud 'bang,' and his daughter collapsed in his arms, saying 'help me, Dad.'" He told the court Monday, per the AP, that he didn't know what had happened as his daughter fell to the ground and suddenly had difficulty breathing. "I couldn’t figure out what was wrong," Mr. Steinle said, tearfully. "She didn’t have any health problems." He wouldn't realize what had happened until he rolled her over and lifted her shirt to find a small bullet wound.
Garcia Zarate was arrested soon after, and has admitted from to firing the gun since one of his earliest interviews with police, however he says that it went off accidentally. Key to the defense's case will be expert testimony about the gun itself, a .40 caliber SIG Sauer P329, which is said to have a hair trigger. Garcia Zarate says he found the gun under a bench near the pier, wrapped in a t-shirt. Immediately after Steinle was shot, Garcia Zarate tossed the gun into the Bay.
Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia began her opening statement showing off the gun, per the AP, saying, "It’s a very reliable, high-quality gun. It’s one that won’t go off on accident."
As we heard last week as jury selection was being completed, Judge Samuel K. Feng is doing all he can to keep politics out of the courtroom for the duration of the trial, forbidding discussion either of the immigration debate or gun control, though keeping these topics out of jurors' minds seems like an impossibility.
The gun, we know, was stolen from the vehicle of a federal Bureau of Land Management agent, John Woychowski, who after some debate will included among the witnesses for the defense.
As ABC 7 reports, Jim Steinle is expected back on the witness stand today, Tuesday, as the trial resumes at 10 a.m.