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San Francisco jury sends a message: No justice

Tina Trent author image /

Before a San Francisco jury let Kate Steinle’s killer go free yesterday, her family announced that they planned to stop speaking publicly about the case.

“We just want to get this over with and move on with our lives, and think about Kate on our terms. Nothing’s been on our terms. It’s been on everyone else’s terms,” Jim Steinle told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter in a pre-verdict interview.

The choice to stop talking to the media would be understandable for the family of any murder victim but more so when the crime has become a symbol of other conflicts. Steinle’s murder attracted national attention when it was revealed that her killer was a five-times deported illegal alien and seven-times convicted felon who had recently been freed from prison instead of deported a sixth time, thanks to San Francisco’s “sanctuary city” policies.

This sort of math triggers a reaction in the types of people who see all criminals and illegal aliens as victims of an “unfair” America. There is no upward limit to such feelings. If Jose Ines Garcia Zarate had been convicted of 20 felonies and had been deported 19 times, he would have triggered an even more sentimental response.

And so 12 jurors in San Francisco have now made Kate Steinle into a symbol of something else: justice denied. By finding Garcia Zarate not guilty of both murder and manslaughter these jurors put their stamp of approval on the crazy theory promoted by the killer’s defense attorneys. The defense argued that the career criminal was innocently sitting on a bench when a gun he just happened to find moments earlier accidentally went off in his hand, and the bullet just happened to move in the direction of Kate Steinle and kill her.

Or at least that is what they argued inside the courtroom. Outside the courtroom, all they talked about was immigration policy and Donald Trump:

“From Day 1 this case was used as a means to foment hate, to foment division and to foment a program of mass deportation. It was used to catapult a presidency along that philosophy of hate of others,” defense attorney Francisco Ugarte said after the verdict. “I believe today is a day of vindication for the rest of immigrants.”

So now we know, as if we did not know before, that the killer’s taxpayer-funded attorneys believe that “vindication” comes in the form of walking free after shooting a 32-year old woman to death in front of her father, if one is an “immigrant,” that is.

Garcia Zarate, also known by the alias Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, shot Kate Steinle as she was walking on a San Francisco pier popular with tourists. He threw the gun in the water and ran away. After he was captured, he told police he was trying to shoot a seal when he accidentally killed Steinle. By the time he was put on trial, the story changed. His lawyers said he had just found the gun under his seat.  They said it went off accidentally as he was removing it from the shirt it had been wrapped in.

In the trial’s opening statements, defense lawyer Matt Gonzalez argued that Garcia Zarate was on trial only because he was the victim of a racist, classist justice system.  “If this was a college student or Swedish kid would he be charged with murder?” Gonzalez asked.

Leading up to the trial, the New York Times and other elite media kept such identity politics on full throttle. In a July 2015 op-ed titled “The Anti-Immigrant Binge in Congress,” the Times editorial board decried as “insanity” the existence of two bills (with the usual House and Senate versions), one addressing sanctuary cities and the other, Kate’s Law, named after Steinle, addressing deportees who illegally re-enter the United States.

Denouncing this alleged legislative “binge” as evidence that Republicans were “consumed with exploitive fury over the San Francisco tragedy,” the editorialists pontificated that any proposal other than amnesty for illegal aliens was merely “racism” and “hard to distinguish from the rantings of Donald Trump.”

According to the Times and other progressives and leftists in the media and politics, doing anything to reduce illegal immigration is racist and excessive.

The Times has long held the same jaundiced view of doing anything about crime: merely prosecuting someone is deemed prejudiced (whenever it can be) and excessive in all cases. Such views are held, and expressed, with increasing rigidity and with no consideration for the consequences of failing to address rising criminality and illegal immigration.

When crime victims or surviving family members are thrust into the public eye, as the Steinles were, they find themselves negotiating through this anti-incarceration universe. It is a deeply uncomfortable position, by the design of the defense bar, which wishes they would simply disappear.

Crime victims who express any anger – or even a desire for justice – are vulnerable to accusations of being “vengeful.” No father should have to explain why he wants to seek justice for the murder of his daughter. But it is a rational response to the current climate to do so:

“We have never had a second of anger — not a moment,” Jim [Steinle] said. “Frustration, maybe, and sadness for sure, but no anger and no retaliation or vindictiveness or anything like that. We’re not that kind of people. Even if this guy gets 100 years in prison, it doesn’t solve anything; it doesn’t help anything. We would just like people to know … that’s the Steinles’ feelings.”

The Steinle family wisely chose not to be in court yesterday. There was nothing there for them. As Mr. Steinle said, “[j]ustice was rendered, but it was not served.”

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The Author

Tina Trent

Tina Trent writes about crime and policing, political radicals, social service programs, and academia. She has published several reports for America’s Survival and helped the late Larry Grathwohl release a…