Jurors held the flattened bullet that struck Kate Steinle and viewed photographs of her body Thursday as the prosecution rested its case against an undocumented homeless man charged with murder.
Prosecutor Diana Garcia put on a show for the jury during the eighth day of the controversial trial, calling to the stand Chief Medical Examiner Michael Hunter and Lt. Anthony Ravano, the lead homicide investigator in the case.
The trial started two weeks ago with the heartfelt testimony of James Steinle, who was with his daughter on Pier 14 when a bullet ricocheted off the ground and entered her lower back July 1, 2015. Prosecutors later charged Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented Mexican national, in the killing.
The killing became shrouded in politics when President Donald Trump used it to condemn sanctuary cities like San Francisco and call for a crackdown on illegal immigration during his presidential campaign.
But attorneys have pushed politics aside in the trial. The prosecution has to prove that Garcia Zarate intended to pull the trigger for the jury to convict on second-degree murder. Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez is trying to convince jurors that the shooting was accidental.
On Thursday, Hunter examined the scraped bullet that struck Steinle before Garcia passed it to the jury. Garcia also projected a photo of Steinle face down on a metal table with a rectangular gunshot wound visible on her lower back.
“Typically, with an entrance gunshot wound, it’s rounded,” Hunter testified. “This is really anything but that.”
Hunter concluded that the bullet ricocheted when he conducted an autopsy of Steinle on July 2, 2015.
Ravano showed the jury the handgun that fired the bullet and demonstrated that the weapon could fit into the pockets of the oversized clothing Garcia Zarate was wearing on the day of the shooting.
The demonstration showed that Garcia Zarate could have walked onto Pier 14 with the pistol hidden in his pocket when Steinle was shot.
Garcia Zarate told police after the shooting that he found the gun on the pier. Garcia Zarate suggested that the gun was wrapped in a rag when he stepped on it and it discharged, prompting him to throw it off the pier.
When police arrested him, Garcia Zarate was wearing a XXL black coat and size 36X32 jeans. Both items of clothing are oversized for him, a slender man of short stature.
“There are a lot of pockets that the gun could fit in,” Gonzalez told reporters.
The gun was stolen from a Bureau of Land Management ranger who parked in San Francisco days before the shooting. The weapon is a Sig Sauer P239 that the bureau issued to the ranger as a secondary weapon. The gun is the smaller version of another Sig Sauer handgun.
The courtroom display prompted a back-and-forth between Garcia and Gonzalez, with Ravano on the stand.
“If you believe Mr. Garcia Zarate had the firearm in his pockets, why didn’t you have the pockets tested for gunshot residue?” Gonzalez asked.
“Because I didn’t believe he fired the gun through his pocket,” Ravano said.
“You never asked any criminalist to test any pocket of Mr. Garcia Zarate for gunshot residue?” Gonzalez asked.
“That is correct,” Ravano responded.
“And that’s because he threw the gun in the Bay,” Garcia said when it was her turn to ask a question.