Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the illegal immigrant who was acquitted in California of killing Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier, has been indicted by a federal grand jury. Zarate will now face federal charges for possessing a gun as convicted felon and an illegal alien.
Zarate was acquitted of murder by a California jury last week in a case that provoked widespread outrage. Zarate admitted to accidentally killing Steinle with a single shot from a stolen pistol. The shot ricocheted off the ground before striking Steinle in the back. The same jury convicted Zarate of being a felon in possession of firearm, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in California.
The federal charges include possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm by an illegally present alien. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits double jeopardy, trying a person for the same offense twice, but there are exceptions to the rule. The Supreme Court ruled in Blockburger v. United States (1932) that offenders could be tried separately for offenses stemming from the same act if each offense required a different element of proof.
In the past, the federal government has prosecuted cases in which defendants were acquitted in state courts. The most famous such cases stem from the Civil Rights Era in which racists who were acquitted of crimes against blacks by local juries were then tried on federal civil rights charges.