"What could this jury have been thinking?", people ask, "The case was a "slam dunk". After all, Zarate confessed to the killing."
Further, he was in the USA illegally, was a 7-times convicted felon, had been deported 5 times previously, was to be deported the 6th time when Kate was killed, and was in clear violation of California's Penal Code 29905 (Any person convicted of any felony...) Even more grating to many is the fact that Zarate, via his confession, said that the shooting was an accident - and, that excuse was accepted by the jury sufficient enough to acquit him.
This jury (and the judge) are coming under heavy political fire over this verdict. The outrage is understandable. But, as with most things these days, things may be more complicated than they first appear.
No, in my opinion, the outrage should not be directed at the jury or the judge; rather, it should be directed toward the District Attorney and the prosecution.
Now, the below goes to my oft cited quote: "Any intersection between justice and the legal system is purely coincidental" - R.R. Moore (circa 1975).
Let's look at what the charges were against Zarate: Murder, Involuntary Manslaughter, Assault With A Deadly Weapon, and Being A Felon In Possession of a Firearm. (Note: the jury found him guilty on this last charge.)
And, what are the legal definitions of the charges on which he was acquitted?
Murder: The unlawful killing of another human without justification or valid excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought. (BTW: in California all "degrees" of murder require intent.)
Involuntary Manslaughter: All three elements of the following must be satisfied in order for someone to be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter: (1) Someone was killed as a result of the defendant's actions, (2) The act either was inherently dangerous to others or done with reckless disregard for human life and (3) The defendant knew or should have known his or her conduct was a threat to the lives of others.
Assault With A Deadly Weapon (in California): Any person who commits an assault upon the person of another with a deadly weapon or instrument other than a firearm.... So, that demands the California definition of "Assault": California assault under PC 240, requires all of the following to be true: (1) The defendant did something that was likely to result in the use of force against someone else; (2) The defendant did so willfully (i.e., intent); (3) The defendant was aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that this act would directly and probably result in force being applied to the other person; and (4) When the defendant acted, s/he had the ability to apply force to the other person.
Therefore, strictly following the "legal system", the charges of Murder and Assault With A Deadly Weapon are not sufficiently supported due to lack of proof of "intent". Remember, in Assault With A Deadly Weapon all 4 stipulations have to be "in play".
As to Involuntary Manslaughter, stipulation #1 is clear - someone was killed. Stipulations #2 & #3 are much more difficult to "prove".
The act of simply having in one's possession a loaded firearm is not, by itself, "inherently dangerous to others or done with reckless disregard for human life". Actually having a firearm in one's hand(s) is, in fact, "inherently dangerous" but, not necessarily "done with reckless disregard for human life".
As to stipulation #3, did Zarate know or should he have known that his actions "were a threat to the lives of others"? Clearly, any rational person would have known. But, how is it proven "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that Zarate did?
His general defense was that it was an accidental discharge of the weapon which ricocheted off the ground striking Kate. Further, he claimed that he found the weapon in some type of cloth/shirt under his seat on the pier which he unwrapped.
As there was no evidence to contradict his defense AND forensics offered that a "ricochet", indeed, was possible, "reasonable doubt" clearly existed.
Now, back to my assertion that this miscarriage of justice was the fault of the prosecution team.
As we all know, the San Francisco (SF) area is a hotbed of progressive ideology and its citizens strongly favor its status as a sanctuary city. As Zarate is here in this country illegally, SF would do its utmost to protect him.
But, the killing of Kate has been a hot topic of conservatives in their positions against illegal immigration - the story not going away. Public outcry over Kate's killing has been LARGE. So SF had to do something to "quiet things down".
I am only asking this question:
"Isn't it possible that the prosecution team, having to do something, filed charges against Zarate knowing full well that sufficient evidence was NON-existent to ensure conviction on the most serious of the charges? Thus, offering them "political cover"?
The Zarate's conviction on the "weapons charge" carries a 3 year prison term - but, he has not been sentenced as yet.
As I write this, the federal government is looking into filing federal changes against Zarate. We'll just have to wait and see what happens next.
Was a miscarriage of the "Legal System" effected? Well, maybe not so much!