Jurors this afternoon found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the 45-year-old Mexican citizen charged in the 2015 fatal shooting of Kate Steinle, not guilty of murder charges.
If Garcia-Zarate had been deported again (he had already been five times) as federal law insisted he should have been (he had been in San Francisco city custody on a warrant regarding fleeing from an old marijuana charge from 1995, moved to them from federal custody for felony illegal re-entry to the U.S.) prior to Steinle's being shot, went the argument, she would still be alive. And probably the strongest one for the defense that contributed most to the jury's verdict in this case is the fact that it was a ricochet shot that killed Kathryn Steinle. The defense argued that the shooting was unintentional, that the defendant found the gun wrapped in a cloth under his seat at the pier and that it accidentally discharged. Before the shooting, officials in San Francisco released Garcia Zarate from custody instead of turning him over to immigration authorities. Sanctuary City policies limit cooperation between local law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Prosecutors said Garcia Zarate immediately tried to cover his tracks by throwing the gun into the San Francisco Bay, then fleeing the scene.
The case touched off a national debate about sanctuary cities because of the circumstances of Zarate's release from a San Francisco jail several months before Steinle's killing.
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed "Kate's Law", named for Steinle, that would increase penalties for illegal immigrants who return to the United States.
President Donald Trump blasted a California jury that acquitted a Mexican immigrant who was in the US illegally in the shooting death of a woman in San Francisco two years ago after local officials let the man go while he was awaiting deportation.
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San Francisco Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia said during the trial that she didn't know why Garcia Zarate fired the weapon, but he created a risk of death by bringing the firearm to the pier and twirling around on a chair for at least 20 minutes before he fired.
"While the State of California sought a murder charge for the man who caused Ms. Steinle's death-a man who would not have been on the streets of San Francisco if the city simply honored an ICE detainer-the people ultimately convicted him of felon in possession of a firearm".
Prosecutors said the verdict was not what they had hoped for, but they respect the decision.
In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump tried to link Democrat Hillary Clinton to the controversy.
Known as Kate, she was walking along the pier when she was struck by a bullet and died in her father's arms. But it's unlikely to have enough votes to pass the Senate, which struggled with Kate's Law previous year.