Attorneys in the high-profile trial of an undocumented immigrant accused of killing a woman in San Francisco continued to cycle through potential jurors for a second day on Tuesday, offering clues as to the trial ahead.
But Matt Gonzalez, an attorney for the man who allegedly shot and killed Kate Steinle on Pier 14 in July 2015, said he expects to select a jury with the judge and prosecution by the end of Wednesday.
Thus far, attorneys on both sides have made efforts to separate the facts of the trial from the national debate on immigration. President Donald Trump highlighted the killing during his presidential campaign as he called for a crackdown on illegal immigration.
“Is there anybody here who feels like they are so angry at Donald Trump that they would not be able to convict?” prosecutor Diana Garcia asked the jury pool of San Francisco residents. “…That would not be able to live with themselves for political reasons?”
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, also known as Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, is accused of shooting Steinle on the pier after the Sheriff’s Department released him from jail. Evidence previously released in the case shows that the bullet ricocheted off the ground before striking Steinle in the back.
On Tuesday, Gonzalez asked potential jurors questions that reinforced his argument that the killing was an accident. Gonzalez told the San Francisco Examiner after the hearing that he needed “to make sure they can vote not guilty” if they decide the shooting was accidental.
“What I am trying to make sure they understand is that if this is an accident, the law says that is not a crime,” Gonzalez said. “It may still be a tragedy, it might still be something we wish had never happened…. but it’s not a crime.”
Gonzalez also asked whether the potential jurors thought there should be gun control laws for securing firearms left unattended in vehicles. Though Garcia Zarate is not accused of the auto burglary, the weapon used in the killing was stolen from a vehicle belonging to a Bureau of Land Management ranger.
On the other side, Garcia asked potential jurors if they could keep an open mind about police after hearing an officer lie. A San Francisco police sergeant lied to Garcia Zarate while trying to elicit a confession from him during an early morning interrogation that followed the shooting.
Garcia also asked potential jurors who voted for Gonzalez in his bid for San Francisco mayor in 2003 if they felt their support for Gonzalez “gave him an edge in this case?”
Judge Samuel K. Feng excused more than a dozen potential jurors on Tuesday afternoon.
Feng is scheduled to hear opening statements in the trial on Oct. 23.