I returned home from dinner last night to hear the jury verdict in the Kate Steinle murder case and the comments of Garcia Zarate’s defense lawyer Matt Gonzalez, and I can tell you it didn’t make my dinner set well.
I was stunned and furious about this blatant miscarriage of justice and the arrogant, misleading exploitation of the Steinle family’s grief by the grandstanding attorney. Gonzalez had spent weeks insisting that this had nothing to do with politics or immigration, then the second his patently guilty client was freed, he ran to the nearest camera to politicize Kate Steinle’s death, outrageously compare the murder prosecution of his criminal illegal alien client to the kangaroo Russian collusion investigation of President Trump’s campaign, and depict the attempt to bring the Steinle family some long-delayed justice as racism against immigrants and the verdict as a victory for immigrants’ rights.
And when he insincerely added that he offered his “sincere condolences to the Steinle family...I hope that they do not interpret this verdict as diminishing in any way the awful tragedy that occurred that their family has suffered,” I just about threw a lamp through my TV screen.
Frankly, I was so furious that I didn’t how I was going to write about this. I felt like just typing “Grrr!” and holding down the “r” key for about 500 lines.
Fortunately, I had the rest of the evening to calm down, read a lot of other analysts and think it over. I also had the dignified example of the Steinle family, who said they were “saddened and shocked” by the verdict, but not surprised. Her father Jim said, “Justice was rendered, but it was not served.” They refused to attend the verdict announcement. Her brother Brad owns a gun, but he said the vast majority of San Francisco jurors have never even fired a gun and don’t know that it's "ridiculous" to claim that they go off by themselves. He called the trial the “least important part of the puzzle,” saying he was just flabbergasted by the “epic failure” of the entire system that culminated in a multiple-deportee criminal being freed onto the streets. Plus the fact that even in light of his sister's death, local politicians doubled-down on their sanctuary policies, and nothing has changed.
Taking the Steinle family’s stoic example, I know you depend on me to give you a perspective based in common sense and facts, not just partisan spin or emotion. So I’m going to try to keep this as dispassionate as I can.
First of all, in an attempt to give the jury the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t necessarily the worst murder trial jury since O.J., there is a good article at RedState.com by Sarah Rumpf. She examines what the jury heard and explains some mistakes prosecutors made that might have caused jurors to feel there was reasonable doubt (for instance, doubting that the gun was fired deliberately, or thinking that because the bullet ricocheted before striking Kate, that he didn’t mean to hit her.) Those things might be loopholes for escaping a murder charge, but they don’t explain why they found him not guilty of nearly every other lesser crime (even involuntary manslaughter), finding him guilty only of being in possession of an illegal firearm. And maybe the jury would have had less doubt if the judge had allowed them to hear such irrelevant details as Zarate’s prior felony record or that he’d been deported back to Mexico and returned illegally five times.
It’s a conviction that could bring him three years in jail, although the DOJ seems to be leaning toward immediate deportation (yeah, that works with him.) A reminder: when Southern juries used to acquit Klansmen who lynched innocent people, the DOJ stepped in with federal charges for depriving the victims of their civil rights. But I’m not a legal expert, so I’ll just throw that out there for others to debate.
Not surprisingly, the verdict was roundly condemned, even by some Democrats. It also sparked a flurry of furious Trump tweets, with the President calling it a travesty that proves we need to “BUILD THE WALL!” I have a feeling it will have more than a few people suggesting we build a wall around San Francisco.
Seen in that light, maybe some good will eventually come from it, if it shines a harsh spotlight on the deadly reality of allowing cities and states to thumb their noses at federal law and create protected classes of criminals at the expense of their own citizens’ safety.
I will also console myself with the thought that the infuriating, misleading and self-righteous comments of attorney Matt Gonzalez will backfire bigly. He employed several of the left’s cherished tropes, including trying to redefine terms (i.e., the way “liberals” morphed into “progressives” after the utter failure of their ideas became so undeniable that the term “liberal” became toxic to voters.) Gonzalez tried peddling the canard that calling for enforcement of border security and longstanding laws passed by bipartisan Congresses is somehow an attack on “immigrants.”
News flash: your client is NOT an “immigrant.” He is a repeat criminal illegal alien. They are two very different things. You can hide his record and status from the jury, but you can’t hide the facts from the public. Calling him an “immigrant” who deserves the same rights as a legal US citizen is a slap in the face not only to the Steinle family and the US system of law, but to every legal immigrant in America who waited in line, followed the rules and obeys the laws of their adopted home.
The deliberate conflating of “immigrants” and “illegal aliens” has been one of the most potent weapons of the left in falsely tarring Americans as bigots for simply wanting immigration laws enforced. Maybe hearing that argument made so blatantly under such shocking circumstances, and seeing the tragedy and injustice that disregard for the law has led to, will finally expose how phony it is and destroy it as a useful propaganda tool.
Maybe that post-trial speech will end up being the catalyst that finally unites Americans to get serious about enforcing border security and immigration laws. And when we do build that border wall, maybe we should name it after Matt Gonzalez.
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