Alternate juror defends Kate Steinle verdict

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The verdict in the Kate Steinle murder trial has caused a lot of outrage after the defendant, an undocumented immigrant, was acquitted.

On Wednesday, one of the alternate jurors in the case is spoke out in defense of those who deliberated behind closed doors. That juror gave ABC7 News an inside view of what the jury heard and why it arrived at that verdict.

"Some of them probably are having a tough time with the fact that half of the United States seems to be calling them fools, including the President of the United States," alternate juror Phil Van Stockum said.

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For that reason, Stockum decided it was time to defend his fellow jurors. As an alternate, he was in court, but excused the moment the rest of the panel began deliberating.

Still, he says his fellow jurors made the right decision to acquit Jose Ines Garcia Zarate of murder based on the evidence the prosecution presented.

At the last minute they were asked to consider first degree murder which includes premeditation.

"There was no evidence suggesting that in the trial and second degree murder charges require something called malice aforethought."

TIMELINE: How the Kate Steinle case unfolded

That too was rejected because the prosecution never really proved that Garcia Zarate intended to kill or harm Steinle.

No motive was ever given, Garcia Zarate had no history of violence and he was 90 feet away from Steinle when the gun was fired and the bullet ricocheted traveling 78 feet before hitting her in the back.

"It wasn't just a ricochet, it was a bad ricochet, like if he intended to make that shot, he was a terrible host and he got terribly lucky,"

But why did they jury not settle for involuntary manslaughter? The reason: the prosecution had to prove that Garcia Zarate, in the act of committing the crime, was brandishing, meaning waving, a weapon.

"No evidence of that was presented during the trial,"

In fact, no witness on that pier ever saw Garcia Zarate holding anything in his hand.

Van Stockum acknowledges it wasn't easy to see the Steinle family in court. "I felt terrible for him and his wife and their whole family...I knew I had to separate my feelings about that from my roll."

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