By Joe Guzzardi
October 17, 2017
Jury selection is underway in Kate Steinle’s tragic, infamous, preventable murder in 2015. The 32-year-old woman was strolling San Francisco’s popular Pier 14 in broad daylight with her father when a five-time deported, seven-time convicted illegal alien and Mexican national shot her in the back, and killed her.
In the days immediately following the murder, the defendant was known as Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a false identify. His true name is Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, and when arrested he was a fugitive from justice.
Because of immigration-related variables surrounding Zarate’s case, the Superior Court has summoned at least 1,000 potential jurors, many times more than normally called. Among the key facts that Zarate’s lawyers hope to eliminate, or at least minimize, during juror consideration are that their client is a convicted alien, and San Francisco is a sanctuary city that released him from custody two and a half months before he murdered Steinle. Federal immigration agents asked local authorities to hold Zarate, a request that, pointing to San Francisco’s sanctuary status, they ignored. Zarate had been in a San Francisco jail serving a 46-month sentence on felony re-entry.
Legal experts predict that finding jurors without an immigration bias will be a challenge. Immigration enforcement and the Steinle murder were prominent campaign themes during candidate Trump’s successful presidential bid. And since President Trump’s election, passions about immigration both from enforcement and non-enforcement perspectives have intensified.
In California, immigration sentiments are particularly raw. Now a sanctuary state that protects aliens like Zarate, California has filed several lawsuits against the Trump administration for its threats to withhold funding from sanctuary jurisdictions, to build a southern border wall, and its cancellation of deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA).
Zarate’s defense lawyers, who allege that the shooting was an accident and that the bullet ricocheted off the ground before it struck and killed Steinle, hope to find jurors who can set aside their immigration opinions to focus on the details. Rory Little, a former federal prosecutor and currently University of California Hastings law professor, predicts tough sledding ahead to find 12 unbiased jurors.
Once the trial begins, it will dominate California’s news cycle, and will be a constant reminder to the state’s residents of Sacramento’s blatant disregard for public safety. Polling shows that Californians – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos – reject sanctuary policies. Yet the California Senate wrote a law, the California Values Act, to grant statewide sanctuary to criminal aliens, and Governor Jerry Brown recently signed the bill into law. U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris heartily endorsed the legislation which never appeared on a ballot and on which California voters had no say.
Before and since Steinle’s murder, sanctuary-protected aliens have killed other innocent victims. Yet Brown and a majority in the California State Legislature defied the oath that they took upon assuming office to uphold the Constitution which mandates that they support and defend the United States against “all enemies.”
The Constitution doesn’t mention defending or protecting illegal aliens. Yale Law School graduate Brown studied the Constitution, and knows it’s the supreme law of the land, but he doesn’t care. Brown’s agenda comes first; to him, the Constitution is irrelevant.