Kate Steinle’s Family Speaks: Jury Reaches Verdict (Multi-Video)

By John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle

As they awaited the verdict in the trial of Kate Steinle’s accused killer, her parents and brother had one overriding wish.

It had nothing to do with the severity of the defendant’s conviction.

Above all, they wanted it to mark the end of a public profile they neither sought nor enjoyed.

Each media interview, each exploitation of Kate’s name for political gain, each still shot of her smile on television only amplified the anguish of their loss.

Yet they also wanted to convey their appreciation for the many strangers who, having heard their story, offered solace and assistance.

“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,” said Jim Steinle, who was strolling with his 32-year-old daughter on a crowded San Francisco pier when she was shot and killed on July 1, 2015.

He, his wife, Liz Sullivan, and their son, Brad Steinle, sat down with The Chronicle recently at their longtime East Bay home for an exclusive interview they planned to be their last.

“We have never had a second of anger — not a moment,” Jim 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.”

They had decided not to attend court to hear the jury’s decision.

On Thursday, the verdict arrived: Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was acquitted of all murder and manslaughter charges. He was convicted merely of possession of a firearm.

“We’re just shocked — saddened and shocked … that’s about it,” Jim said “There’s no other way you can coin it.”

“Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”

(Fox News reports from outside the courtroom after jury reaches verdict. Courtesy of Fox News and YouTube. Posted on Nov 30, 2017)

Brad said he was “not surprised,” considering the “epic failure” that led Garcia Zarate to be released on the streets, and end up with a loaded handgun on the pier that day.

“I’m stunned that they couldn’t even get him on using the weapon,” Brad said.

And so went the court system’s application of justice in a case that almost instantly became a cause celebre for advocates of a crackdown on illegal immigration.

Fox News championed “Kate’s Law” to impose mandatory prison sentences on those who return to the U.S. after deportation.

(The legislation is designed to crack down on illegal immigrants who commit crimes and the people who help keep them out of jail. Courtesy of Fox News and YouTube. Posted on Jun 30, 2017)

Donald Trump, as candidate and now as president, has routinely cited Kate’s death as justification for building a U.S.-Mexico border wall and punishing sanctuary cities.

The Steinles have a decidedly nuanced view on sanctuary cities.

They support the concept as a way to encourage immigrants, regardless of legal status, to come forward as victims or witnesses to crimes without fear of deportation.

Yet they believe San Francisco went too far when then-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi effectively ordered his department to cut off communication with federal immigration authorities.

They also expressed frustration at the sanctimony and stubbornness of San Francisco politicians.

In response to the outrage over Kate’s killing, the city modified its sanctuary policy only slightly, allowing notification of federal immigration authorities only when a person convicted of certain violent crimes is about to be released.

The bottom line: An undocumented immigrant with Garcia Zarate’s exact criminal history still could be released from jail to the streets without a call to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Brad Steinle said he was “just flabbergasted” by the “culmination of errors” that led to his sister’s death.

“Failure No. 1” was the feds’ decision to send Garcia Zarate back to San Francisco on a 20-year-old drug charge, which they should have known would never be prosecuted.

The unsecured and loaded gun left in a Bureau of Land Management ranger’s vehicle, which was stolen.

And, perhaps worst of all, a sheriff’s policy that allowed the release of a repeat felon who should have been deported.

In Brad’s view, those official actions were at least as responsible as the shooter for Kate’s death.

(Kate Steinle’s family speaks with Anderson Cooper about the legal action they are taking after she was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant. Courtesy of CNN and YouTube. Posted on Sep 3, 2015)

“This trial, for me, is kind of the least important part of the puzzle,” the brother said.

“The sequence of events that led up to this — and the fact that nothing has changed — is the most disheartening thing.”

“It’s like Siegfried and Roy: You stick your head in a tiger’s mouth and you’re probably going to get bit at some point.”

The trial was an ordeal for Kate’s parents. They had to hear what seemed like interminable monologues from public defender Matt Gonzalez.

“That jury — God love ’em, God love ’em,” Liz said of their endurance of Gonzalez’s arguments, including his contention that the gun went off accidentally.

“Just ridiculous stuff,” she added. “I own a handgun,” Brad interjected.

“I know that guns don’t just go off. But you have a jury full of people, the vast majority of which probably haven’t shot a gun before and don’t know the intricacies of how a gun works.”

For Jim, whose daughter collapsed in his arms after being shot in the back, the tribulation included a need to recount the Pier 14 nightmare on the witness stand.

“I can hardly talk about it today,” he said.

“It’s a horrific moment that you can’t get out of your mind. That’s how all three of us suffered. It’s all-encompassing, and 2½ years later, we’re still in court.”

“I dreaded every moment when I thought about it, and I said what I had to say, and you can’t put a ribbon around it or anything like that. You just relive this, day after day.”

Now and then an acquaintance would angrily suggest that Kate’s killer should be executed and ask: “What do you think, Jim?”

“I think Kate’s gone,” Jim said.

(Kate Steinle’s dad testified on final moments of her life on the first day of the murder trial. Courtesy of Fox News and YouTube. Posted on Oct 24, 2017)

“We’re not going there. We don’t have hate. Of course we’re deep in our faith and we go to church. We believe Kate’s in a better place, and we think about her on that level. But no, we have no vindictiveness.”

For the Steinles, one of the silver linings of a devastating experience was the professionalism of the San Francisco prosecutors.

The Steinles appreciated the victim support services provided by District Attorney George Gascón’s office.

They praised the trial performance of Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia in what Liz called “an uphill battle” to try to obtain a conviction with the remnants of evidence she had available.

The Steinles also went out of their way to say how they were moved and comforted by the cascade of empathy they received. The cards. The phone calls.

The donations to the charities that are raising funds and doing good in Kate’s memory: the Challenged Athletes Foundation and Students Rising Above.

Jim wears a light-blue bracelet embossed with “The Kate effect,” a reference to the enthusiasm and kindness his daughter exuded.

At 1 a.m. on the morning of her death, she posted on Facebook the inspirational phrase, “Whatever’s good for your soul, do that.”

“Somehow, we’d like to thank everyone who’s been with us, and made this walk with us,” Jim said. “And that’s a lot of people.”

Liz added: “It gives you hope in humanity.”

Original post http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/Exclusive-Kate-Steinle-s-family-speaks-12396710.php

Attorney General Sessions Statement on the Verdict in People of the State of California vs. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate aka Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez

“When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

“San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle.”

“While the State of California sought a murder charge for the man who caused Ms. Steinle’s death—a man who would not have been on the streets of San Francisco if the city simply honored an ICE detainer—the people ultimately convicted him of felon in possession of a firearm.”
“The Department of Justice will continue to ensure that all jurisdictions place the safety and security of their communities above the convenience of criminal aliens.”
“I urge the leaders of the nation’s communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers.”

Additionally, ICE Deputy Director Tom Homan’s Releases a Statement on Verdict in Steinle Case

“San Francisco’s policy of refusing to honor ICE detainers is a blatant threat to public safety and undermines the rule of law.”

ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan
ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan

“This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had simply turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets.”

“It is unconscionable that politicians across this country continue to endanger the lives of Americans with sanctuary policies while ignoring the harm inflicted on their constituents.

“Following the conclusion of this case, ICE will work to take custody of Mr. Garcia Zarate and ultimately remove him from the country.”

Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement