I was another juror found in the Kate Steinle murder trial found in SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA. I didn’t get a vote, but I saw all of the evidence and the jury instructions, and I talked about the verdict with the jury after it had been delivered. A lot of the public reaction I’ve seen offers been surprise, confusion and derision. If we were holding among your reactions as well, I’m writing to clarify for you why the jury was right to make the decision that they did.
I’m not really a lawyer, but I understood regulations that was go through to us in this instance. Defendants in this nation have the proper to a presumption of innocence, which implies that if generally there is an acceptable interpretation of the evidence that favors a defendant, the jury must allow that interpretation over any others that incriminate him. This principle is a pillar of the American justice program, and it was a significant part of our jury instructions.
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Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the undocumented immigrant who was accused of killing Steinle, was charged with 1st level murder and the lesser included offenses of 2nd level murder and involuntary manslaughter. When the prosecution rested its case, it seemed clear to me that the evidence didn’t support the requirements of premeditation or malice aforethought (intentional recklessness or eliminating) for the murder charges. After having listened to the evidence, I agreed with the defense’s opinion that the murder charges should not have been brought. The data didn’t show that he designed to kill anyone.
These are some of the facts which were organized to us: Zarate had zero motive and no recorded background of violence. The shot he fired from his seat hit the bottom 12 feet before him before ricocheting another 78 feet to hit Steinle. The damage to the bullet indicated a glancing impression during the ricochet, therefore it seems to have been shot from a low height. The gun, a Sig Sauer P239 pistol, is a backup emergency weapon employed by law enforcement which has a light trigger mode and no safety. (The jury asked to feel the trigger pull of the gun during deliberation, but the judge didn’t let it, for causes that aren’t distinct to us.) The pixelated video of the incident that people were shown, taken from the adjacent pier, displays several six people spending around 30 minutes at that same seat setting down and picking up objects a mere 30 minutes before Garcia Zarate arrived there.
You will find a reasonable interpretation here that favors the defendant: He found the gun at the seat, picked it up away of curiosity, and accidentally caused it to fire. As a scared, homeless man wished by immigration enforcement, he threw the gun in the water and walked aside. The presumption of innocence, as mentioned in the jury instructions, needed the jury to select this interpretation because it is affordable and favors the defendant.
But so why the manslaughter acquittal? A lot of the confusion I’ve encountered has got been over this area of the verdict, and it can seem to me individually that manslaughter is the appropriate fee for Steinle’s killing. Even so, given the evidence and the law offered in this trial, it really is clear to me that the jury manufactured the right decision.
The involuntary manslaughter charge that the jury was read included two key requirements: 1) A crime was committed in the act that caused death; 2) The defendant acted with “criminal negligence”-he did something than a typical person could have known was more likely to bring about someone’s death.
The jury was not free to choose the crime for part (1) – they had to utilize the one chosen by the prosecution, and the prosecution chose that crime to be the “brandishing”, or the menacing waving, of a weapon. As a juror, I found this choice puzzling, since the prosecutor presented totally zero proof brandishing through the trial. I don’t think we actually heard the term “brandishing” until it had been read within the charge through the jury instructions at the trial’s end. No witnesses ever before saw the defendant retaining a gun, much less brandishing it. Given that baffling choice by the prosecution, the manslaughter fee was a non-starter for the jury. Experienced a unique precursor crime been chosen-for instance, the unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon-the outcome may have been different.
Even in that case, however, it is not clear to me that part (2) of the manslaughter fee was proven. Only a single particle of gunshot residue was found on the defendant’s hands, which appears to aid his repeated claim that the gun was covered in some type of fabric when he picked it up and caused it to fire. If he did not know the object was a gun, this is a stretch out to claim that it had been criminal negligence for him to choose it up.
The jury did convict Garcia Zarate of the different charge of illegitimate possession of a firearm, which indicates that they felt it an unreasonable conclusion that he didn’t know he was holding a gun. He was in the seat where he promises he observed it for about 20 minutes just before the shooting, and he manufactured some statements during interrogation that appeared to indicate that he had known what the item was. Without the good thing about having the capacity to re-examine the evidence during deliberation, I’m uncertain that I’d consider that evidence to constitute evidence beyond an acceptable doubt, but knowing these jurors, I’d trust them to have made an accurate judgment if the manslaughter fee had survived the 1st requirement.
I have come from this knowledge with a solid sense of respect for the jurors and their target handling of a sensitive case under the national spotlight. I hope that I would contain acted with the same degree of maturity.
Phil Van Stockum is definitely a mechanical engineer who lives on SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA and occasionally writes at abinitioblog.com. He’s not a lawyer.