SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Defense attorneys Tuesday morning presented testimony from a video enhancement expert in the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the man charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Kate Steinle on San Francisco’s Pier 14.
Attorneys for Garcia Zarate, a 45-year-old homeless Mexican citizen who was arrested around an hour after the July 1, 2015 shooting based on witness descriptions, are not contesting that he fired the shot that killed Steinle.
Instead, they are presenting a series of expert witnesses this week to bolster their argument that the shooting was an accident that occurred after Garcia Zarate found and picked up a gun that had been stolen from a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger several days earlier.
Paul Hiromi Endo, president of the San Bruno-based video and graphics firm Think Twice, Inc, was called to the stand Tuesday morning by Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney for the public defender’s office, to analyze dark, grainy video of the 6:30 p.m. shooting.
The video, which was first presented during the prosecution case, was taken from a surveillance camera at another pier around 800 feet away. It shows Garcia Zarate as a small, dark figure sitting on a seat on the pier and Steinle and her family members walking around 90 feet away toward the pier’s end.
As the video continues, a small white figure identified as Steinle can be seen falling to the ground, and Garcia Zarate walks away. A video enhancement presented by prosecutor Diana Garcia also showed a small splash in the water that was identified in witness testimony as occurring when Garcia Zarate threw the gun used in the shooting into the water.
On Monday, the defense opened its case with testimony from James Norris, former head of the San Francisco crime lab, on the bullet ricochet that sits at the heart of the defense case. Forensic evidence shows that the single bullet struck the ground around 12 feet in front of Garcia Zarate before striking Steinle in the back.
Steinle’s shooting triggered a national furor over San Francisco’s Sanctuary City policies after it was learned that Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant with a history of deportations and drug charges, had been released from San Francisco jail several months earlier without notice to federal immigration authorities.
Sanctuary City policies, which have been adopted by hundreds of cities and counties across the country, limit the communication and cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.
The policies are intended to increase community safety by encouraging immigrants to report crimes and work with local police and also to avoid liability due to illegal detentions. They have been upheld by court rulings but are bitterly opposed by immigration opponents.
Garcia Zarate had been sent to San Francisco jail after he completed a federal sentence for returning to the country following deportation because he had a warrant in the city for an old marijuana charge. That charge was dismissed once he arrived in San Francisco and he was released.
Defense attorneys have said they expect to wrap up their case this week, with closing arguments expected to take place next week. Testimony is expected to continue Tuesday afternoon.
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