On Thursday evening, a California jury ruled that Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, the illegal immigrant who killed Kate Steinle in San Francisco, was not guilty of murder or manslaughter. Zarate had been deported some five times in the past, rearrested, and then released again despite federal request for detention; since San Francisco is a sanctuary city, local law enforcement refused to reply with the request, and let him go instead.
The verdict is not reasonable.
Zarate was charged with second-degree murder, but jurors were allowed to consider the possibility of involuntary manslaughter.
The second-degree murder charge required the prosecutors to argue that Zarate had intent and that he was playing some sort of mental “Russian roulette” before shooting. That’s a stretch, given that the bullet bounced off the pavement before killing Steinle. But involuntary manslaughter requires no such intent. In California, involuntary manslaughter is a killing without malice, without intent to kill, but with reckless disregard for human life. The distinction between involuntary manslaughter and excusable accident is participation in either an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or a lawful act involving a high degree of risk of death or great bodily injury.
In order for the defense to prevail, they had to argue that Zarate simply found the gun lying around, picked it up like an idiot, and then accidentally fired the gun; afterward, he threw the gun in the bay because the noise scared him. That’s not believable in the slightest. In fact, the jury even acknowledged that Zarate was guilty of felony possession of the firearm, which had been stolen days before from a federal agent. It's hard to imagine why he committed a crime in possessing the firearm but not in firing it recklessly.
The verdict is also irrelevant to the general question as to whether Zarate should have been in the country at all. It is insane that Zarate had been deported five times, and that if he had been an American citizen subject to California’s legal system, he would have been in prison rather than on release; California has a three strikes law, so repeat felons are subject to longer sentencing.
President Trump won election based on the pledge that he would prevent crimes like Zarate’s. Now’s the time to push both the Trump wall and a stronger regime of enforcement against illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.