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Trial Explores Whether Kate Steinle's Death Was Deliberate Or Accidental

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- The defense began presenting its case in the Kate Steinle murder trial on Monday.

Both undocumented Jose Ines Garcia Zarate and the gun that killed Kate Steinle took center stage, with the main question being was the shooting of Kate Steinle -- as she walked with her father on a San Francisco pier -- a deliberate act or an accident?

The District Attorney says it was deliberate.

San Francisco District Attorney spokesman Alex Bastian said, "We had civilian witnesses, law enforcement officers and other forensic experts."

But on Monday it was the defense's turn. The defense brought in James Norris, the former head of the San Francisco police lab. Norris testified the stolen Sig Sauer pistol was fully loaded, had no safety and that Steinle was hit by a ricochet shot.

Francisco Garte is on the defense team.

"We've been able to establish, through expert testimony, the characteristics of an accident," Garte said.

The expert also testified that even without a safety, it would be unlikely that the gun would go off even if dropped, and that the trigger had to be pulled -- either on purpose or by accident.

"Essentially," Bastian said, "the experts said that the gun would not spontaneously go off and that the trigger would have to have been pulled."

The defense counters that even if Zarate accidentally pulled the trigger when he picked up what he thought was a bundle of clothing lying at his feet, he had no intention of harming anyone.

Garte said, "It ricocheted off the ground, traveled at an about two degree angle to hit Miss Steinle."

Garte contends that the Sig Sauer gun in question requires only an "extremely light trigger pull" to go off.

"The question," Bastian said, "is whether the defendant intended to pull the trigger on that firearm and when it's all said and done, if the jury believes that the evidence shows that, they'll find him guilty of murder."

The next phase of the trail is likely to center around how the gun ended up on the pier. Did Zarate bring it in his coat or did he find it there? Either way, the focus is likely to be on intent.


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