No verdict in the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate could deliver satisfactory justice for the killing of Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old woman who was shot on July 1, 2015, as she was strolling with her father along Pier 14 in San Francisco.
On Thursday, Garcia Zarate was acquitted of the homicide — or even on a charge of involuntary manslaughter — though the jury convicted him of possessing the gun.
Judge Samuel Feng repeatedly admonished prospective jurors not to consider the overriding political implications that made this a national story. President Trump and Fox News commentators have often invoked Kate Steinle’s name as justification for cutting off federal funds to sanctuary cities and building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The judge was absolutely right: The political dynamics had no bearing on Garcia Zarate’s culpability for Steinle’s death.
But that does not mean, in the aftermath of the trial, that sanctuary cities — and now the state of California, with its sanctuary policy — should be satisfied that they have struck the right balance for public safety.
Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed SB54, the “California Values Act,” which prohibits state and local law enforcement from asking about a person’s immigration status or participating in immigration raids with the feds. It also limits the authority of police and sheriffs to share information on inmates’ release dates, or to transfer people to immigration authorities. An exception would be for those convicted of one of roughly 800 crimes in the past 15 years.
San Francisco is considerably more restrictive: Under a compromise approved by the Board of Supervisors, federal authorities could be notified of an impending release only if the prisoner had a serious felony record within the past seven years. It’s a distinct improvement over the policy of former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi that led to Garcia Zarate’s release — that edict effectively shut off any local cooperation with federal agents — but it still leaves the city in a vulnerable place.