Steinle case: Federal judge orders Zarate to undergo mental competency evaluation | News | |


Steinle case: Federal judge orders Zarate to undergo mental competency evaluation

Interrupts start of trial for federal gun charges related to fatal SF shooting

An undocumented Mexican man who held the gun that killed Pleasanton native Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier in 2015 was ordered by a U.S. judge Wednesday to participate in a psychological evaluation to determine whether he is competent to stand trial on federal gun charges.

Steinle, 32, was struck and killed by a ricocheting bullet from a gun held by Jose Inez Garcia Zarate on Pier 14 on July 1, 2015.

Zarate, 47, who contends the shooting was an accident, was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in San Francisco Superior Court in 2017.

But he faces two federal criminal charges of being an ex-felon and an undocumented person in possession of a gun. He was scheduled to go on trial this week in the court of U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco, but the judge postponed the trial because of concerns about Zarate's mental competence.

After Zarate declined to participate in an evaluation by a psychologist on Monday, Chhabria ordered him brought to court on Wednesday so that Chhabria could personally order him to cooperate in the assessment, now rescheduled for Jan. 23.

Zarate, who is being held in pretrial custody, appeared in court in red Alameda County jail clothing. His hair was closely shaven.

"As I have indicated, I have concerns about whether you have a mental health condition that would prevent you from being able to go to trial," Chhabria told Zarate through a translator.

"I have ordered you to undergo an evaluation by a mental health professional. I want to make clear that I am ordering you to participate," he said.

Chhabria told Zarate that a trial can't take place until there is an evaluation and said a refusal to cooperate would mean that he would remain in custody for the time being.

Outside of court, defense attorney Tony Serra said the judge became concerned after he asked Zarate in a previous hearing what the charges against him were, and Zarate twice responded "illegal entry."

Serra said he believes Zarate is competent to go to trial and that Zarate is eager to do so in hopes of being acquitted and released.

The attorney said he doesn't plan to call Zarate to testify at trial and instead will rely on a surveillance video to support Zarate's claim that he didn't know the wrapped object he found under his chair was a loaded gun. He threw it in the water as soon as it fired.

Later on Wednesday, Serra said he met with Zarate after the court hearing and that his client was "equivocal" about whether to participate in the evaluation.

"He didn't say he would not cooperate and didn't say he would. He was very emphatic that he doesn't have a mental problem," Serra said.

— Bay City News Service

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3 people like this
Posted by Ridiculous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2020 at 2:52 pm

“ ...who held the gun that killed” her?! What kind of bs, pass the buck, reporting is this? Zarata killer her, plain and simple. Do not try and make it sound like he had no fault in this tragedy. He had the gun, he pulled the trigger, he caused her death. Report it plainly and accurately, don’t skirt the issue.

Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jan 21, 2020 at 1:32 am

At the very least it is manslaughter and forget the boo hoo about being mental, indigent, immigrant, the gun was dropped and went off bullshit. Prosecutors and politicians are so scared of the uber liberal wanna do-goodies that no real accountability exists any more. And by my observation, most of the do-goodies have never stepped foot into the Tenderloin or frankly know exactly where it is. PS I would not recommend that especially if you are liberal and white

Like this comment
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 21, 2020 at 10:12 am

How about just deporting the murderer back to his home country for evaluation there? Why on EARTH is this guy still here and continuing to use tax money for his care?

Here ya' go Democrats, defend this so we can have a good debate.


Like this comment
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 21, 2020 at 10:13 am


The proper LEGAL term is ILLEGAL ALIEN.

Get it together PW.


Like this comment
Posted by Kiko
a resident of Val Vista
on Jan 22, 2020 at 10:10 pm

Some judge somewhere in this country with common sense should order the judge, jury and attorneys connected with that trial to "undergo mental competency evaluations" after the verdict and everything that has transpired since.

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 22, 2020 at 11:07 pm

Sure that mental evaluation isn’t for the defense attorney

Like this comment
Posted by MichaelB
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 23, 2020 at 8:49 am

“ ...who held the gun that killed” her?! What kind of bs, pass the buck, reporting is this?"

It's "progressive" bs.

Brought to you by the same people(activists/politicians/journalists)who refer to those deliberately abusing firearms/violation of existing laws as "gun violence"- and conveniently the "fault" of everyone/everything else except the person(s)actually responsible.

Like this comment
Posted by wow
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2020 at 5:19 am

so if i get caught robbing a bank i just tell the police its not a crime its an undocumented withdrawal. LOL look we all get that you using undocumented instead of the factual legal term illegal. Do you really think you are fooling anyone by minimizing the illegal immigrants behavior. Who do you think your fooling. Trump got elected because of people like you. Thanks LIBS. On a side note can you please tell everyone how many "undocumented" LOL you are currently supporting. ie living free at your house etc etc etc. Let me give you the answer. it is 0. zilch, nada,bupkis. So How many of you who support illegal immigrants actually spend your money, not mine supporting these poor soles. I will be waiting for everyone to chime in on how much cash and housing they provide. the floor is open don't all you wonder-full people flock here all at once. LOL

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