Katie Steinle’s Killer Wins Appeal

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Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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36 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    The prosecution’s theory was that the man brought the gun with him and was “playing Russian Roulette”, aiming at people and firing.

    “Or possibly Halo 4. We don’t know a lot about games here. We’re busy people!” according to a prosecution source.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Mike Schilling
      Ignored
      says:

      Given the the gun was a semi-automatic one, not a revolver, the “Russian roulette” theory sure asks the jusryto believe that Garcia Zarate also doesn’t know a lot about games.

      The whole theory of the prosecution was really that he was just taking pot shots at strangers without any motive whatsoever? I’m not surprised a jury declined to convict.Report

  2. Avatar PD Shaw
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    says:

    Good post and agree with it entirely. And it’s always a good thing when criminal law requires an intent element, or when the courts supply it.Report

  3. Avatar Zac Black
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    says:

    Sounds to me like the real problem has nothing to do with anyone’s immigration status, and everything to do with the fact that we have entirely too many firearms. If there’s no gun in this story, Steinle is still alive. Of course, the right is clinically incapable of seeing that, but what else is new.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Zac Black
      Ignored
      says:

      “everything to do with the fact that we have entirely too many firearms.”

      lol

      he stole the gun from a cop

      private citizen ownership of firearms is completely irrelevant to this caseReport

      • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to DensityDuck
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        says:

        The jury didn’t believe that. Do you know something they don’t?Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Em Carpenter
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          says:

          “criminal felon in possession of a firearm” is literally the only thing they convicted him of what are you even talking about hereReport

          • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to DensityDuck
            Ignored
            says:

            “He stole the gun from a cop.”
            There is literally zero evidence of that or he would have been charged with it. The fact that the jury asked during deliberations whether there was a minimum time required in order for it to be possession shows the jury didn’t think he had possession of the gun for any length of time prior to the incident. They clearly believed his version of the story, that he found it on the pier. The fact that the judge failed to instruct the jury on the “momentary possession” defense is literally the entire point of the appeal. And the point of this post.
            Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Em Carpenter
              Ignored
              says:

              They clearly believed his version of the story, that he found it on the pier.

              No. There’s a world of difference between believing OJ and thinking the Prosecution didn’t meet their burden of proof.Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah, I’m a lawyer. I know the difference between innocent and not guilty.
                Did you read all I wrote? The jury’s question to the court about minimum time of possession is why I say they believed him. Not the verdict.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Em Carpenter
                Ignored
                says:

                The jury’s question to the court about minimum time of possession is why I say they believed him.

                Great, so did they know what we know about his history?

                We had people on this thread comparing him to a “priest” finding a gun up until we looked up his actual record.Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes, because in order to consider the possession charge they would have had to hear evidence of his prior felony. And depending on how he was charged they would have also learned it was drug crime. Beyond that, they would be instructed not to consider it as evidence of his tendency to be guilty of anything other than the possession, because in this country we don’t use prior bad acts to prove conformity therewith in the commission of a current charge. Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Em Carpenter
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                says:

                Yes, because in order to consider the possession charge they would have had to hear evidence of his prior felony.

                Singular tense there. “Prior felony” implies “one”, not “seven”.

                …they would be instructed not to consider it as evidence of his tendency to be guilty of anything…

                Let me translate that into English for you.

                “No, they were not told he had seven prior convictions of drug crimes much less his full professional-criminal history. This act needed to stand on its own with a few limited carve outs”.

                To be clear I’m cool with that. However we shouldn’t overstate the jury’s information or wisdom.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Em Carpenter
          Ignored
          says:

          The jury didn’t believe that. Do you know something they don’t?

          IANAL. However my expectation is we all know stuff the jury didn’t. Him being a 7x convicted drug dealer would have been highly prejudicial to his defense, presumably the jury wasn’t told the specifics. Similarly we hear “fellon” rather than a more detailed and accurate past. So we end up with a highly experienced criminal who we’re pretending is a normal civilian, and we’re also pretending he’s not lying about everything else that was happening that day.

          Since he can’t explain what was going on, he was almost certainly there professionally. His profession is drug dealing.

          It’s farcical to pretend he is a normal civilian and the gun fairy left him a present and he has no clue how his hands ended up on it or where it came from (just like every armed drug dealer). It’s reasonably clear what happened, we just can’t prove it legally.

          And btw yes, the gun was stolen from a cop 5 days earlier (wiki) so it’s totally outside the scope of gun control unless we’re planning on disarming the police. Whether he stole it, or purchased it from someone who did, or was doing a favor for a friend by retrieving it is irrelevant. Everything that happened was already seriously illegal and the law-ignoring criminals involved wouldn’t care if we made it super-duper illegal.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
            Ignored
            says:

            “It’s reasonably clear what happened, we just can’t prove it legally.”

            As Attorney General Bill Barr would put it, “Completely Exonerated!”Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Dark Matter
            Ignored
            says:

            “It’s farcical to pretend he is a normal civilian and the gun fairy left him a present ”

            and that this gun–this gun which was a professional’s service weapon and, presumably, maintained per schedule and in-spec–would be stolen by some random person and left under a park bench in a crowded tourist area for five days with nobody noticing it, and that in that time it would degrade to the point where it would fire a shot just from being picked up.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to DensityDuck
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              says:

              Thank you. That elegantly sums up in one paragraph something I was struggling to fit into a page.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck
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              says:

              However preposterous, it is less so than any other theories for how the gun was fired.

              A 7x felon just whipped out a gun and decided to shoot into a crowd for no reason? And somehow managed only to shoot the ground?

              What would be a non-preposterous theory that is supported by factual evidence?

              And how was this theory overlooked by the professional prosecutors?Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Unfortunately we’re dealing with a sub-culture where “because I was/have-been high on drugs” is, if not a “reasonable explanation”, sometimes the actual one.

                And note the gun being his would eliminate the need for a 2nd person also doing stupid-crazy things. We need a screw up and pro-criminal/junky to break into a cop’s car and steal his gun… so he can plant it in the open where only screw-up #2 will randomly find it?Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Occam’s razor holds that the State didn’t present any evidence on how the gun got there, who stole it, when it got there, etc., because the evidence doesn’t exist. And if had existed, its exclusion would have been raised in the appeal.Report

            • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to DensityDuck
              Ignored
              says:

              It was stolen five days prior. That doesn’t mean it laid there five days.
              You don’t have to sell me on the fallibility of juried. But there is zero actual evidence to support your or the prosecution theories. Even if he stole/brought the gun, there’s still no proof the shooting was an intentional act. And none of his prior felonies were violent crimes.
              If he had been pointing a gun at people on the Embarcadero in San Francisco in broad daylight, someone would have seen that.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Em Carpenter
                Ignored
                says:

                It was at no point under dispute–by ANYONE, including García Zárate–that he was holding the gun when it went off. The claim is that it went off all on its own, merely from him picking it up–and, moreover, that it went off the instant he touched it, not enough “taking possession” of it.

                “Even if he stole/brought the gun, there’s still no proof the shooting was an intentional act.”

                I’d think a lawyer would know that you can criminally possess a firearm and commit assault with a deadly weapon unintentionally. But then, I don’t have an ideological reason to find a particular outcome in this case.Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                You are ridiculous and I could not be more done engaging with you. Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                Also, no, you cannot unintentionally commit assault.Report

  4. Avatar Road Scholar
    Ignored
    says:

    The fact that the defendant is a prior convicted felon and an undocumented immigrant seems entirely incidental to this tragedy. It could have been anybody — a kid, a priest, a cop, literally anyone — finding the wrapped gun, picking it up, and accidentally discharging it. And I think the fact of the victim being atruck by a ricochet lends a lot of support to the defense theory.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Road Scholar
      Ignored
      says:

      All of his previous felonies have been for drug dealing. His inability to describe what he was doing there or why suggests he’s still at it. The odds of that gun either being his or related to his profession are pretty high.

      This was an accidental shooting, by someone who seriously can’t legally have a weapon. We can’t prove it was his… by some definition of “prove”.

      In order to believe a “priest” could have done this we need to believe that priests “find” guns just as often as drug dealers.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Dark Matter
        Ignored
        says:

        I think the outcome here was probably right given the evidence but I also suspect you’re right. I’d be curious how the prosecutor got to that theory when negligent discharge seems more likely. I’d be shocked if there aren’t negligent homicide crimes in CA that apply.

        Either way even if they don’t have the evidence to convict him of a crime but can prove he isn’t here legally he ought to be turned over to ICE and deported as quickly as possible.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to InMD
          Ignored
          says:

          Agreed with all of that… but it’s worth mentioning that this case was selected by Trump as an outrageous miscarriage of justice that he could present as “normal”. It’s like the lottery commission showcasing a winner.

          It’s possible the prosecutor/police/judge/jury dropped the ball and/or the defense got really lucky.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Road Scholar
      Ignored
      says:

      haw

      this is so cool to see people so terrified of being thought racist that suddenly a dude who shot a pistol at a crowd and fucking killed someone is not a dangerously irresponsible shithead who ought to be under the jail but rather some poor misunderstood brother who just needs an eighth chance

      like you’d actually accept “he didn’t MEAN to shoot someone when he pointed the gun at a crowd and pulled the trigger” if this were Jackson Beauregarde Pickett-Burnside III in ChattanoogaReport

      • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to DensityDuck
        Ignored
        says:

        The jury didn’t believe that was what happened, either.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Em Carpenter
          Ignored
          says:

          you’re posting that like it’s a rebuttal to my post but it’s actually not, so…?Report

          • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to DensityDuck
            Ignored
            says:

            You seem to believe you know more about what happened than the jury who sat through the trial and heard all the evidence.
            No, we don’t generally put people “under the jail” for an accidental discharge, which the jury quite obviously believed to be the case.
            Is he a criminal? Yep. But criminal history is not what we base convictions on in this country, except in the court of public opinion. Evidence of prior bad acts is generally not admissible to prove the guilt of a defendant for a different crime. There are exceptions, but I don’t have the time or inclination to explain them to you. Suffice to say that these circumstances are not one of the exceptions.
            He should not have been here in this country. I won’t disagree with that.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Em Carpenter
              Ignored
              says:

              “He should not have been here in this country.”

              So you agree with me that Road Scholar is wrong, and that Garcia-Zarate being a convicted felon and undocumented immigrant is not incidental to this tragedy?

              Cool!

              And you rolled in and argued with me anyway!

              And you act like you can’t imagine a reason why I blocked you!Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s relevant that if he had not been here the incident would not have occurred. It’s equally relevant that had his mama never met his daddy and he’d never been born this wouldn’t have happened.
                If you somehow think his illegal status is a contributory factor to his tendency to shoot people randomly then no, I do not agree.
                Sure, difference of opinions is not an all a ridiculous and immature reason to block someone. To be clear I had no idea that was you on Twitter, we’d had pleasant interaction there and so yes I was confused by your block. Once I learned you were one and the same it made perfect sense. Of all the many people on here of opposing views, you’re the only one with whom I who can’t have a discussion without you being sarcastic and hostile. If you don’t want me to come in and rebut your comments on my posts, don’t comment.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Em Carpenter
                Ignored
                says:

                This ain’t the court, sister, we can talk about whatever we like.

                “If you somehow think his illegal status is a contributory factor to his tendency to shoot people randomly”

                It’s a contributory factor to arguments contra the notion that illegal immigrants aren’t a danger to anyone and shouldn’t be deported and it’s only racism making anyone think differently and that’s why we need Sanctuary Cities, because here’s an illegal immigrant who was in fact a dangerous felon that did in fact shoot and kill someone. And here you are going to the mattresses for this poor, poor dude who just was hard done by in this white man’s world and needs justice done for him, and well yeah maybe it sucks that girl got shot but that was just like a random tragedy, you know, the SF Embarcadero is practically a war zone these days with bullets flying all over the place, right? After all, it’s not like a white guy shot her.Report

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