No Justice But What We Make

After illegally crossing the border for the fifth time, Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate, a Mexican national with more than 30 aliases, stole a handgun from the vehicle of a federal agent.

While on a stroll along Pier 14 in the Embarcadero district of San Francisco, the stolen pistol magically discharged, Garcia-Zarate’s defense claims, and fatally wounded a beautiful young woman named Kate Steinle who was out for a walk with her father in 2015.

Before police arrested him, Garcia-Zarate managed to get a mile from the spot where Steinle had fallen screaming into her father’s arms, her aorta pierced by the .40-caliber slug.

After a drawn-out legal battle, Garcia-Zarate was acquitted on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and assault with a firearm. The only thing Steinle’s vindicators managed to stick to this slimy foreigner was a felony conviction for unlawful possession of a gun.

That conviction, however, was recently overturned by a California state appeals court.

According to NPR, the 1st District Court of Appeals ruled in late August that the conviction should be overturned because the judge did not give the jury proper instructions on the possession charge. The judge made a “prejudicial” error when he failed to provide the jury with “the momentary possession instruction.”

If this makes no sense to you, then rejoice, for you are among the sane.

“It is undisputed that defendant was holding the gun when it fired,” wrote the appellate court. “But that fact alone does not establish he possessed the gun for more than a moment. To possess the gun, defendant had to know he was holding it.” We have arrived at Schrödinger’s gun.

Garcia-Zarate’s defense claimed that he had found the weapon tucked under his seat at Pier 14 when it accidentally discharged in his hands. Therefore, he never possessed the weapon in a legal sense when he fired it and subsequently tossed it in the ocean. Never mind that a federal agent had reported his sidearm snatched from his vehicle in San Francisco.

“If I was not a juror on this trial,” a very thoughtful, compassionate juror elaborated for we the unenlightened, “I would probably think the same way: ‘Why did you let him go free?’ But again, the reason is, they could not prove to us that he intentionally killed her. And through all the evidence, I really think that it was a freak accident,” he said, presumably before running out for a latte after a job well done.

San Francisco Values

And for anyone who might get the wrong idea that California is more concerned with ideology than justice, I should inform them that San Francisco formally has adopted two very serious resolutions.

First, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors have resolved that felons not be called felons but rather “formerly incarcerated persons,” or former “justice-involved” persons, or “returning residents,” or anything but felon.

“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,” Supervisor Matt Haney told reporters. “We want them ultimately to become contributing citizens, and referring to them as felons is like a scarlet letter that they can never get away from.”

Things like “murderer,” “rapist,” and “pedophile” do tend to carry a stigma. No denying that.

Second, San Francisco has declared the National Rifle Association a “domestic terrorist organization.” “The NRA has it coming to them,” said Supervisor Catherine Stefani, “and I will do everything that I possibly can to call them out on what they are, which is a domestic terrorist organization.”

No doubt Governor Gavin Newsom is all smiles now, knowing that his state is doing judicious work on behalf of the people. Newsom, like any good Democrat, has his own ideas on the meaning of justice and democracy.

The president promised he would set his hand against those places in the United States that offer sanctuary to foreigners like the one who killed Kate Steinle. And yet these citadels of lawlessness thrive.

Over the summer, Newsom kindly informed illegal aliens how to evade detection and deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He put out the word in Spanish, too.

In his broadcast to illegal aliens, Newsom conjured up the specter of Proposition 187, an ill-fated measure that appeared on ballots in 1994.

Prop. 187 was an attempt by Californians to stem illegal immigration by removing a significant incentive: state-administered services, including healthcare, public education, and welfare benefits—which have all by now become pantry staples of the Democratic Party’s offerings to noncitizens.

Newsom curiously dismissed Prop. 187—“we’ve been through this before; we’ve lived through this”—as if the people of California had high-mindedly rejected it. They didn’t. California’s formerly sane, formerly American electorate passed the measure by 59 percent to 41 percent, with a 60 percent voter turnout.

What killed Prop. 187, in the end, was a permanent injunction by a left-wing judge who deemed the measure unconstitutional.

Leftism Trumps the Constitution

You can see the common thread here, stretching back into the past and clear through to our day: The Left recognizes as legitimate, as just, only that which conforms with their politics. The legitimacy of a thing, in this view, is determined solely by ideology from which the politics originate.

A left-wing judge struck down Prop. 187 not because it was unconstitutional, but because it conflicted with her politics; she simply made the law conform with her politics—with her will as a moral senator of the Left.

San Francisco’s political leadership perceives the NRA to be terroristic because it stands between them and their desired political outcomes, and not because of any terrorist activities. If only the NRA was actually so formidable an adversary for the anti-Second Amendment agitators.

Felons, in their view, are misunderstood because there are no bad people (except Republicans), not really; just bad environments, bad institutions, and bad conventions. We only have prisons because systemic inequality pushes people into them, therefore calling felons “felons” is impolitic.

When Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf whined last year that immigration raids are “politically motivated,” the issue was not their illegality. Such operations are legal; but they are, of course, at odds with her politics.

Judges and jurors with left-wing sensibilities ruled in favor of a killer illegal alien, because finding him guilty conflicted with their politics. That he had a criminal history, that he had been deported several times, and allegedly had stolen the gun that cut down Steinle in her prime was irrelevant. Politics informs all and supersedes all.

It might be said that many Democrats don’t actually believe in their ideology, but rather see the ideology of liberalism as a means to an end. This is certainly true; but whether these politics come from a place of sincerity—they truly are believers—or cynicism, is ultimately irrelevant. The effect and outcome are the same.

Faced with what essentially is a political theology conforming law to will, the Republican Party has responded with finger-wagging and empty threats. Any day now, they warn, the spirit of the Constitution will visit the Democratic Party to put the fear of law in them.

Republicans, in truth, have done as much as Democrats to banish that dead letter from our midst; their unwillingness to become serious is therefore understandable. But to engage the Left also poses a unique problem: It means fighting within a framework that has been exploited and arranged to their benefit.

The Left uses legitimate legal and governmental frameworks to advance and defend an illegal agenda, operating within and outside of that framework as necessary. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and sanctuary jurisdictions are unconstitutional, but have been effectively protected by technically legal nationwide injunctions.

Energize the Executive

When we train our weapons on the political Left, we find our own fortresses have been manned and arrayed against us. The political Right needs to bring to bear more than appeals to a flogged-to-death Constitution.

The answer is a more energetic executive likewise willing to operate within and outside a legal framework that has been littered with traps and partisans. Visual learners need simply turn their eyes across the pond and watch Boris Johnson threaten to ignore legislation that would, if given its proper assent, prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Steinle’s death and the non-punishment of her killer should be a wake-up call to the political Right—if the untouchable status of Russian collusion hoaxers wasn’t already—that there is no justice in this country but what we are willing to make. President Trump has at his disposal instruments of the executive to serve these ends.

The president promised he would set his hand against those places in the United States that offer sanctuary to foreigners like the one who killed Steinle. And yet these citadels of lawlessness thrive, obstructing immigration enforcement and subjecting citizens to violence at the hands of foreigners.

The president threatened to end birthright citizenship, to invoke the Insurrection Act to effect a nationwide deportation program—both moves that could land substantial blows in this fight. These are things that only he, as chief executive, can do. Yet he has not done them.

Perhaps the president is still set on playing by the rules. But we can only become a formidable political force if we disabuse ourselves of playing by the rules that the Left has set for us, and that they do not, themselves, abide.

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About Pedro Gonzalez

Pedro Gonzalez is associate editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture and an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He publishes the weekly Contra newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @emeriticus.

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

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