Weapons expert bolsters defense's claim Steinle shooting was accidental

- A string of witnesses took the stand for the defense today in the Jose Garcia Zarate trial.
The undocumented immigrant is accused of killing Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier more than two years ago.

Today's star witness: a firearms expert who bolstered the defense's claim that Steinle's killing was an accident.

Alan John Voth, who worked for the Canadian Mounted Police for 35 years, was the defense's firearms expert. He testified that Zarate most likely unintentionally fired the gun used to kill Steinle on Pier 14 on July, 1 2015.

"Under the law, an accident is a complete defense to a criminal charge and so if there is reasonable doubt that a crime was committed, that this was accidental that he would be acquitted on all charges," said Francisco Ugarte, co-counsel for the defense.

Prosecuting attorney Diana Garcia tried several times to prevent defense attorney Matt Gonzalez from asking Voth's opinion on whether Zarate intentionally fired the weapon, but to no avail. Voth said his opinion was based on a variety of factors including operator error.

"Unintentional discharges happen.. particularly when you have someone who is untrained, when you see a single shot, as is the case here, [and] when you have a long distance shot and a ricochet," explained Ugarte.

Another factor to consider when determining a misfire, according to Voth, is the actions of the shooter after the shot.

Garcia reminded the jury that Zarate tossed the gun into the bay and then walked off the pier. She also pointed to Zarate's contradicting statements to police .

"In the key part of the statement, he said that he was five feet away from Ms. Steinle when the gun discharged," said Ugarte. "And we know that's totally not true. He also admitted to walking by her when she was shot, we know that's not true."

The defense claims those contradictory statements prove that Zarate was under duress while being interviewed and he simply caved to police's narrative of what they believe happened during the shooting.

When asked if their client would be taking the stand, Ugarte said Zarate would not be testifying.

The defense expects to wrap up its case tomorrow, which would mean closing arguments are set for Monday.
 

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