Dueling theories define Kate Steinle murder trial

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Several strategies and pieces of evidence were central to the courtroom drama that unfolded in the Kate Steinle murder case, beginning with how both sides handled the political backdrop as then-candidate Trump wove the defendant's undocumented status into his anti-illegal immigration campaign.

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Defense Attorney Matt Gonzalez prepped a jury with several younger members, by saying they could not be swayed by the politics of the moment. UC Hastings Law professor Hadar Aviram called it a necessary first step.

"Now it's true whenever you tell people not to think of a white elephant that's exactly what they think about, but to not say anything about the political aspects would have been to remiss," says Aviram.

Early on, Prosecutors presented a grainy video tape from security cameras -- where jurors could make out Kate Steinle being shot. The defense argued the position of blurry people in the images suggested an accidental discharge.

"Whenever we have evidence that's partial, which is sort of what we have here, we have circumstantial evidence it's not great, it's not a lot, we have to fill in a lot of pieces, our natural tendency as human beings is to fill in the blanks from our own experiences, from our own lives, from our own backgrounds, this is why jury selection is such an important part of the game," Aviram adds.

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Jurors were not allowed to see an exclusive ABC7 News interview with Jose Ines Garcia Zarate in custody. But they watched a videotape of Garcia Zarate's interrogation, in which he both confesses to shooting Steinle, but also circles back to his claim that he found the gun, and it went off.

"In this particular case we are dealing with someone who appears, our impression from him in the courtroom and the interrogation, a vulnerable person, someone who is easily lead and mislead, and by the way, nothing that we saw in this interrogation is unique to this case," she says.

The Defense and Prosecution would spar over the direction of a ricocheted bullet, the gun stolen from the car of a federal agent, and distance between Garcia Zarate and Steinle. In the end, Defense Attorney Gonzalez told the jurors the two sides had different theories gleaned from the same evidence, and it would be up to them to decide.

"It's not your job to convince the jurors that, that is what happened, it's your job to create doubt as to the quality of the story that the prosecution is bringing about," says Aviram.

The jury deliberated for six days before reaching its verdict.

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