San Francisco, CA – A member of the jury that acquitted Kate Steinle’s murderer in November said he felt the 2015 shooting was just “a freak accident.”
The unnamed juror said he decided to speak out after he witnessed backlash from critics who used Steinle’s death as an example of why tougher immigration policies are warranted, KNTV reported.
“If I was not a juror on this trial, I would probably think the same way: ‘Why did you let him go free?’” the juror said.
“But again, the reason is, they could not prove to us that he intentionally killed her. And through all the evidence, I really think that it was a freak accident,” he said.
Steinle, 32, was fatally shot in the back in July of 2015 as she walked down Pier 14 in San Francisco with her father.
The .40 caliber bullet ripped through her abdominal aorta.
Her killer was an illegal alien who had been deported five times prior to shooting Steinle.
A jury found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate guilty of one count of felony possession of a firearm, but acquitted him for the murder or involuntary manslaughter of Steinle, even though he admitted to firing the fatal shot.
The verdict infuriated many people who believed it was a clear-cut murder case.
But the juror told KNTV that the jury quickly disregarded the options of first and second degree murder, and instead deliberated over the manslaughter charge.
The problem, he said, centered on the word “brandishing,” and whether or not Garcia Zarate displayed the weapon in an aggressive manner.
Although Garcia Zarate fired the gun and killed Steinle, the juror claimed that the prosecution did not prove that Garcia Zarate was threatening anyone with a gun.
“During the trial they could not prove that,” he said. “All the videos we saw never, not even one video showed that he was pointing the gun at her. So I think it was very weak.”
Prosecutors said that Garcia Zarate was playing his own “secret version of Russian roulette” as he deliberately fired into a crowd with a stolen firearm.
Garcia Zarate admitted to police that he had fired the gun, but claimed that he was aiming at a seal. In different accounts, he also claimed that he had found the gun wrapped up in a cloth and that it accidentally discharged as he unwrapped it.
The juror said he actually found the “gun wrapped in a rag” excuse to be plausible.
“I truly believe him,” he told KNTV.
However, the double-action trigger on the Sig Sauer P239 pistol requires a significant amount of force to fire, and accidentally brushing the trigger is unlikely to cause any movement on the trigger.
The juror said the jury also initially struggled to convict Garcia Zarate on the weapon possession charge.
“I was kind of in doubt,” the juror said. “What do they mean by possession? Means like you had the thing for a long time? If you touch it?”
The jury eventually convicted Garcia Zarate on the single count, and the juror said he has no regrets about letting Steinle’s killer off on the murder charges.
“I am comfortable with my decision,” the juror said. “I can put my head on a pillow and sleep well thinking that I made the right decision.”
Although the juror did not comment on the tragic loss of Steinle, or the toll the trial likely took on Steinle’s friends and family, he complained about the hardships he suffered as a juror.
“It was very hard on me,” he told KNTV. “When we finished the trial, I left the court, walking to my car, I was in tears. Because I felt the pressure coming off my back. Because I could talk to people then. I was in tears.”
It’s not clear if any of the jurors had ever seen a gun before.