Michael Gaynor
Bad jury verdicts like the one that found Kate Steinle's death to be a tragic accident are shameless politicking
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By Michael Gaynor
December 6, 2017

The Steinle Verdict was not the result of bad law. It was the result of a jury's unwillingness to apply the good law of involuntary manslaughter and willingness to treat any doubt as reasonable doubt.

We need to learn from the tragic deaths of Kate Steinle in San Francisco, California and Rosemary Billquist in Mayville, New York.

A San Francisco jury determined that Kate Steinle died accidentally.

That jury allegedly believed that Kate Steinle was shot because a man found a gun and it discharged accidentally.

Wikipedia put it this way (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Kathryn_Steinle):

"On July 1, 2015, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, while walking with her father and a friend along Pier 14 in the Embarcadero district of San Francisco, was shot by Jose Inez Garcia Zarate. He initially claimed that he fired at a sea lion, then that he fired accidentally while picking up the gun which he claimed he had found moments before, wrapped in cloth beneath the bench on which he was sitting. The shot ricocheted off the concrete deck of the pier striking the victim in the back. Steinle died two hours later in the hospital as a result of her injuries.

"The shooting elicited controversy and political debate over San Francisco's status as a sanctuary city, as Zarate is a Mexican national unlawfully residing in the United States."

"On September 4, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy stated that there was enough evidence to try Garcia Zarate. Initially charged with first-degree murder, Garcia Zarate was eventually tried for second-degree murder. If found guilty of the charges of second-degree murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and an enhancement of using a firearm, Garcia Zarate could have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole. The jury also had the option of deciding if he was guilty of involuntary manslaughter (where the death occurs without intent but 'through the negligent or reckless actions of the defendant'...."

Zarate threw the gun away and did not try to assist Steinle.

Yet that jury did not interpret Zarate's actions as evidence of guilt and instead decided that Steinle's death resulted from accident, not murder or manslaughter.

The jury's refusal to find Zarate guilty of murder is understandable, but its determination that both Steinle and Zarate were innocent victims of a gun is nonsensical.

Thomas Jadlowski needs a jury like that.

CBS News recently reported as follows (www.cbsnews.com/news/thomas-jadlowski-deer-hunter-who-killed-rosemary-billquist-is-charged-with-manslaughter/):

"MAYVILLE, N.Y. – A hunter who fatally shot a neighbor out walking her dogs after sunset but who claimed he mistook her for a deer was charged on Thursday with manslaughter and hunting after hours.

"Thomas Jadlowski pleaded not guilty in Chautauqua County Court, where a judge set bail at $50,000. Jadlowski, 34, could face five to 15 years in prison if convicted.

"State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said Jadlowski was 'being held accountable for his dangerous and reckless conduct when he fired a shot in the dark, causing this terrible tragedy.'

"Rosemary Billquist, a hospital worker and hospice volunteer, was killed by a .35-caliber round from a high-powered hunting pistol fired from about 200 yards away. Billquist, 43, had been walking her two yellow Labradors in a field behind her home in Sherman at about 5:20 p.m. on Thanksgiving eve.

"Authorities said the shooting happened after dark, when it's illegal to hunt deer.

"'There is no allegation that this was intentional in any way,' District Attorney Patrick Swanson said at a news conference with the Department of Environmental Conservation and the county sheriff's office, whose joint investigation resulted in a two-count grand jury indictment.

"But the fatal shooting, Swanson said, was 'completely avoidable.'

"Jadlowski heard Billquist cry out after firing, ran to her and called 911, investigators said."

Subject to further information, it appears that Jadlowski was properly charged and will be determined to be guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

BUT...if Jadlowski had been a Mexican national with Zarate's criminal and immigration history instead of a natural born United States citizen and his shooting had been evaluated by the same jury that found Steinle's to be an accident, would he too be determined to be a victim of an "accidental" shooting and found guilty of shooting a gun at night?

The Steinle Verdict was not the result of bad law. It was the result of a jury's unwillingness to apply the good law of involuntary manslaughter and willingness to treat any doubt as reasonable doubt.

Unfortunately, it is an enticement to other juries to nullify good law in other cases in retaliation.

It doesn't make sense to find Jadlowski guilty of involuntary manslaughter when Zarate was not found guilty of it.

Nevertheless, each case should be decided on its facts and not treated as an opportunity to send a political message.

© Michael Gaynor

 

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)

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