Did the jurors acquit her killer to send a message of disapproval to President Trump?
If sanctuary policies for illegal immigrants got Kate Steinle killed, did Donald Trump’s harsh anti-immigration rhetoric help pave the way for her assailant’s unexpected acquittal last week on murder, manslaughter and assault charges?
Trying to make sense of Steinle’s horrific death was difficult enough. Now we must process the criminal justice system’s horrifically lenient treatment of her killer. Two years ago, a man with a lengthy criminal record—a man who should not have been in the country in the first place—fired a stolen semiautomatic pistol on a crowded San Francisco pier. The bullet ricocheted off the pavement and into the back of a 32-year-old woman out for a stroll with her father. The shooter then threw the gun into the San Francisco Bay and fled, while his victim died in her father’s arms.
Everyone acknowledges that Jose Ines Garcia Zarate is the man responsible for Steinle’s death, yet the system in place to bring the killer to justice seems far more interested in his well-being than it ever was in hers. At the time of the shooting, Mr. Garcia Zarate had racked up seven felony convictions and been deported from the U.S. five times. His lawyers argued that the stolen gun, which the defendant said he found under a bench, went off by accident. Prosecutors brought several charges. The jury could have found Mr. Garcia Zarate guilty of murder, manslaughter or even assault with a deadly weapon, but it declined to convict on any of those counts. Instead, he was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He could face up to three years in state prison—a term he may have already satisfied.
Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator.