An undocumented immigrant who was acquitted in the shooting death of a San Francisco woman was seeking to overturn his weapons conviction.
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, 46, was found not guilty of murder in the death of Kate Steinle in November 2017. The jury found that Garcia Zarate “did not commit a willful act in firing the gun—that it went off accidentally just as the defense contended,” his attorney, Cliff Gardner, said in a filing on Friday.
Gardner filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco in the hopes of overturning his client’s conviction for illegally possessing the fatal weapon in Steinle’s death. Garcia Zarate’s defense team argued that momentary and accidental possession of a gun was not a crime, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
In the appeal, Gardner said that the jury had no choice but to convict his client of illegal firearms possession by a previously convicted felon after Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng failed to tell jurors that “momentary possession” of a gun was not a crime. Gardner asked the appeals court to overturn Garcia Zarate’s conviction and to order another trial.
Garcia Zarate claimed that he picked up the gun, which was wrapped in rags under a swivel chair he was sitting on at the pier, but that he did not know it was a weapon. He only realized he was holding a gun when it fired accidentally and he threw it in the bay immediately afterwards.
The bullet ricocheted off Pier 14’s concrete floor and fatally struck 32-year-old Steinle, who was walking on the pier with her father in July 2015. Garcia Zarate was sentenced to three years in prison for gun possession in January 2018 and has been in prison awaiting deportation.
At the time of the shooting, Garcia Zarate had been deported five times and as wanted for a sixth deportation proceeding, the Associated Press reported. He had been released from jail despite a request from federal immigration officials to detain him for deportation proceedings.
San Francisco’s sheriff claimed the city’s sanctuary city policy limited local cooperation with immigration enforcement.
The jury’s verdict was called a “complete travesty of justice” by President Donald Trump, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Trump administration filed federal gun charges against Garcia Zarate, which could extend his time in prison by 10 years before his deportation.