The San Francisco jury that would not recognize Jose Garcia Zarate as guilty of the murder of Kate Steinle not only mocked simple justice, but further identified San Francisco as a city exiled from the American mainstream, and intensified the debate on whether like-minded cities and counties can declare themselves outside the laws that govern everyone else.
Senor Zarate, an illegal prospective immigrant from Mexico, convicted felon and five-time deportee from the United States whose laws and hospitality he has so spectacularly scorned, was found only to have illegally discharged a weapon, one he most likely stole from someone else. He is subject to a penalty of three years in prison for taking a life. Senor Zarate is not himself, to be sure, a San Francisco liberal. But the jury’s verdict, which astonished nearly everyone, liberal, conservative, Democrat and Republican alike, perfectly reflects the city’s scorn of the way the rest of us behave. The sanctuary city, as it calls itself, is a sanctuary only for the lawless.
Good and decent men and women everywhere are outraged, and are entitled to be. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, understated the Trump administration’s outrage. “Yesterday’s verdict in San Francisco underscores the danger to public safety when our nation fails to enforce its laws,” she told reporters at the White House. “Kate Steinle was killed by an illegal immigrant and convicted felon who had been deported from the United States five times. He, and countless other criminal illegal immigrants like him, should never be allowed to threaten our citizens.”
Senor Zarate’s lawyers claim with straight face that he found the gun in the street, picked it up as any good citizen would, and off it went, a bullet first striking the concrete pier on the San Francisco waterfront and then on ricochet striking her. She was strolling the pier with her father. She died in his arms, begging him to “help me.” A career criminal, such as Senor Zarate, knows that guns are to be treated with care — he might have shot himself in the foot — especially with a gun found in the street.
The acquitted gunman entered the United States illegally and was sent back to Mexico five times. He had no right to be in San Francisco in the first place, and he would not have been on the pier if the San Francisco authorities had co-operated with federal authorities, as they were obliged to do. The tragedy of Kate Steinle is a cruel example of criminal irresponsibility on the part of San Francisco and the state of California.
Congress, as soon as it gets around to it, should take up legislation that will do what a single federal judge has said that President Trump cannot do, which is to cut off all federal money to states and cities that flout the law to provide sanctuary to illegal immigrants. Congress could call it “Katie’s Law,” so that a smart, beautiful young woman with her life ahead of her shall not have died in vain.
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