San Francisco

Key Evidence in Kate Steinle Murder Trial Challenged

Defense attorneys question whether Miranda warning was translated properly to defendant Jose Ines Garcia-Zarate

The murder trial for the man accused of killing Kate Steinle is set to start in a matter of weeks, but on Wednesday there were serious questions in court about key evidence and whether it will make it to trial.

The weapon fired on San Francisco's Pier 14 in July 2015, killing 32-year-old Steinle, may prove to be the focal point of the criminal trial of the shooter.

But any comments made by defendant Jose Ines Garcia-Zarate about that weapon during police interrogation could come off the record, according to defense attorneys.

"We intend to call witnesses that are court-certified interpreters as to what was on that video," said Matt Gonzalez, attorney with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. "So it’s not over yet."

The defense is arguing Garcia-Zarate wasn’t properly informed of his constitutional right to remain silent or seek counsel. An exchange with the San Francisco police officer who translated the Miranda warning was shown in court Wednesday.

Defense attorneys asked, "Would you agree that if you said, ‘You have a right to wait for silence’ that wouldn’t be a correct admonition?

"This is why we we're told over and over (by instructors) to read the Miranda cards verbatim," Gonzalez said. "Because it’s important."

Assistant district attorney Alex Bastian provided context.

"The arguments in court are made for a reason, and the judge will be the ultimate arbiter based on the facts and based on the law," Bastian said.

What transpired after the Miranda rights were read also could play a pivotal role in the judge’s decision. In court, the officer acknowledged Garcia-Zarate said multiple times, "I don’t want to talk to you; I’m done."

"If a person communicates to a police officer they do not want to subject themselves to questioning about a crime, that triggers a right to remain silent," said Francisco Ugarte of the Public Defender’s Office.

Prosecutors may argue it’s about meaning and, for someone who’s already been arrested multiple times, that Garcia-Zarate understood what was asked of him.

The judge's decision could come as soon as Monday when court is back in session.

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