Jurors will hear the confession of a Mexican national accused of killing Kate Steinle despite police blundering his Miranda warning ahead of the interrogation, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled Monday.
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant also known as Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, admitted to shooting Steinle July 1, 2015, during an interview with police that lasted into the next morning.
Defense attorneys argued that his statements should be excluded from trial because a San Francisco police officer misread his Miranda rights and also because Garcia Zarate repeatedly told officers he did not want to speak.
But Judge Samuel K. Feng ruled against the defense and decided that both sides could choose which parts of the police statement to present to the jury. Whatever is not presented during the trial will be sealed to the public.
“This ruling is not in a vacuum,” Feng said. “It’s considering everything.”
“The court had the opportunity to look at the demeanor of everyone in the interview, how the questions were asked, how the answers were given,” he added. “It’s not just what they say, it’s how they say it.”
Feng also ruled that jurors will not watch an interview of Garcia Zarate speaking with ABC 7 news reporters about the killing. The video would have supported the defense’s theory that the killing was an accident.
The ruling came after days of arguments between prosecutors and the defense over the Miranda rights issue and the police statement.
“I don’t want to suggest that our case depends on it not being admitted, that’s not how I feel in the slightest,” said Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. “We’ve always said this was an accident, I think that anybody that watches that interview will reach the same conclusion.”
Prosecutor Allison Macbeth argued that Garcia Zarate gave a “voluntary” confession and knowingly waived his right to silence.
“‘I’m not going to make this easy for you,’ is one statement that he made,” Macbeth said of Garcia Zarate.
On Monday, defense attorneys showed the courtroom photographs of Garcia Zarate slumped over on a chair in an interrogation room the morning after he allegedly shot Steinle on Pier 14.
It was there that Officer Martin Covarrubias, a native Spanish speaker, told Garcia Zarate in Spanish that he has the right to “wait for silence” rather than the right to “remain silent.”
“If you don’t have the means to hire an attorney, one will be appointed free if you wish before you are ‘interegoeh,’” Covarrubias told Garcia Zarate, using a fake Spanish word for “interrogated.”
Garcia Zarate went on to tell police, “I am not going to answer anything,” and “I am not going to keep answering you with words anymore.”
“I am not going to answer anymore of your words or anything because you are not cut out for these things,” Garcia Zarate told police. “The only ones cut out are the judges and the courts or your superiors.”
Francisco Ugarte, another attorney for Garcia Zarate, said that the Miranda issue could be used to appeal the case “if there is a need for appeal.”
“We felt the law was very strong here,” Ugarte said. “We also know to be perfectly candid it’s very hard to win these motions, especially in a case like this.”
The case is scheduled to be back in court Oct. 10.
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