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Alternate Steinle Juror: “The Jury Was Right” to Acquit Garcia Zarate

“The evidence didn't show that Garcia Zarate intended to kill anyone.”


The not guilty verdict in the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle on the San Francisco waterfront may have drawn condemnation from President Donald Trump, who called the decision “disgraceful” soon after it was announced, but it nevertheless was the right one, according to an alternate juror’s account of the trial this morning in Politico.

As an alternate juror, Phil Van Stockum, a mechanical engineer who lives in San Francisco, did not vote in the jury deliberations, but he did see all of the evidence and jury instructions, and discussed the verdict with members of the jury after it was delivered. He writes that it reached the correct decision to acquit Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the undocumented immigrant who was accused of killing Steinle, of charges first and second degree murder and manslaughter.

“The evidence didn't show that Garcia Zarate intended to kill anyone,” wrote Van Stockum.

On the manslaughter charge, which would not require the jury to find intent, only that Garcia Zarate acted with criminal negligence, Van Stockum wrote that while, “it does seem to me personally that manslaughter is the appropriate charge for Steinle’s killing,” that nevertheless, “given the evidence and the law presented in this trial, it is clear to me that the jury made the right decision.”

The alternate juror’s account is another blow to District Attorney George Gascon, who has faced criticism for his handling of the case, and to courtroom attorneys for the prosecution, especially in their claim during the trial that Garcia Zarate had been “brandishing” a weapon prior to the shooting. “As a juror, I found this choice puzzling, because the prosecutor presented absolutely zero evidence of brandishing during the trial,” wrote Van Stockum. “Given that baffling choice by the prosecution, the manslaughter charge was a nonstarter for the jury. Had a different precursor crime been chosen—for instance, the unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon—the outcome might have been different.”

Read the full story on Politico.


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