SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — San Francisco jurors Wednesday heard the muddled confession of the Mexican national on trial for the fatal shooting of Kate Steinle, whose death touched off a fierce debate over immigration.
Prosecutors played a portion of the interrogation of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate recorded several hours after Steinle was shot on July 1, 2015.
Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney for the public defender’s office, has said the statement Garcia-Zarate ultimately made to police was full of factual inaccuracies. He told police he shot Steinle from 5 feet away when he was actually 90 feet, and said he walked past her as she lay injured on the ground when evidence shows that was not the case.
Garcia Zarate, who was homeless at the time, gave confusing and conflicting accounts of the shooting. Ultimately, he says he found the gun wrapped in a shirt and it accidentally fired when he picked it up.
Defense attorneys have claimed that police failed to properly advise Garcia-Zarate of his rights by mistranslating the “Miranda” warning usually read to defendants before questioning.
Garcia-Zarate speaks Spanish, and it was not always clear in the police interview whether he understood the questions he was asked or whether he was able to respond clearly.
Defense attorneys also say police ignored Garcia-Zarate’s repeated attempts to invoke his right to silence and ultimately used aggressive interrogation tactics to coerce a 5 a.m. confession from an exhausted defendant.
Garcia-Zarate was arrested about an hour after the shooting and charged with murder. He had been deported fives time and was wanted by federal immigration officials for a sixth when Steinle was shot.
Steinle’s shooting created a national controversy after it was revealed that Garcia-Zarate, an undocumented immigrant, had been released from San Francisco county jails months before the shooting after a marijuana charge was dismissed despite a civil detainer request by immigration authorities.
Under its longstanding Sanctuary City policies and in accordance with legal precedents, San Francisco does not honor most such requests unless they come in the form of a criminal arrest warrant.