Former defense attorneys for an illegal alien convicted of murdering San Francisco resident Kate Steinle in 2015 on a pier, and whose case blew up into a national debate about immigration and border security, are pressing President Joe Biden to pardon him.
The immigrant, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, still faces pending federal charges in Steinle’s killing after she was struck by a ricocheting bullet while she was walking with her father on Pier 45 near the Embarcadero. He was acquitted on charges of murder and manslaughter in a state court, however, he was instead convicted of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.
But that conviction was overturned by an appeals court after a judge found that the trial court did not give the jury the choice of letting Garcia Zarate off on a hypothesis that the gun was only in his possession for a brief period.
The lawyers who represented Garcia Zarate, San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Chief Attorney Matt Garcia and Managing Attorney Francisco Ugarte, stated that he found an object that was wrapped but did not know that it was a firearm. The gun allegedly fired accidentally and when the bullet ricocheted off the pavement, it struck Steinle.
The attorneys noted in a post on Medium earlier this week they have asked the Biden White House to release Garcia Zarate on the grounds that he was only prosecuted and remains locked up because of comments made about his acquittal by then-President Donald Trump and his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
“Three separate courts have now accepted facts pointing to Garcia Zarate’s innocence. So why is he still in prison? Isn’t it time to do something about this politically motivated injustice?” they wrote.
“Rather than evaluate the jury’s finding, Trump and Sessions rushed to keep Garcia Zarate in custody. Thus far, their efforts are working. What they could not change, however, is that Garcia Zarate is factually innocent of the charges, including the federal indictment alleging gun possession,” the pair wrote.
“Now is the time for the Biden administration to let the world know federal prosecutions will not be premised on lies and misinformation,” the post added. “Like President Biden did with Trump’s litigation positions on the Affordable Care Act, voting rights, and sentence reductions under the First Step Act, he must reverse Trump’s position here.”
Garcia Zarate’s case, in drawing national attention, highlighted a number of California’s liberal immigration policies, including San Francisco’s “sanctuary” policies shielding people in the country illegally from being arrested and prosecuted for it.
At the time he killed Steinle, Garcia Zarate was a seven-time convicted felon who had previously been deported to his native Mexico five times. Trump cited the case during his successful 2016 presidential bid, which was part of his broader pledge to strictly enforce all immigration laws.
“A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case!” Trump tweeted after Garcia Zarate was acquitted. “No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration.”
“The Kate Steinle killer came back and back over the weakly protected Obama border, always committing crimes and being violent, and yet this info was not used in court,” Trump added. “His exoneration is a complete travesty of justice. BUILD THE WALL!”
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