Jury: Mexican man not guilty in San Francisco pier killing

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate
Author

01 December, 2017

An illegal immigrant from Mexico was acquitted of murder and manslaughter by a San Francisco jury on Thursday in the fatal shooting of a woman that Donald Trump used as a rallying cry against "sanctuary cities" during his presidential campaign.

The jury of six men and six women started deliberations last Tuesday and considered dueling arguments that Garcia Zarate was either a hapless, homeless man who killed Steinle in a freak accident or a calculated murderer intent on playing a sick game.

President Trump late Thursday tweeted that the not guilty verdict in the Kate Steinle murder trial was "disgraceful", highlighting his apparent frustration at the resolution of a case he had cited during his presidential campaign as a justification for tougher immigration enforcement. He was found guilty only of possession of a firearm by a felon.

"This man, or this animal, that shot that wonderful, that lovely woman in San Francisco, this guy was pushed back by Mexico", Donald Trump told CNN in July 2015 shortly after announcing his candidacy.

Garcia Zarate's lawyer, Matt Gonzalez, had argued that the defendant wasn't criminally responsible because he found the.40-caliber Sig Sauer and wasn't aware it was a gun when it accidentally went off.

The San Francisco sheriff's department had released Zarate from jail before the shooting, despite a federal immigration request to detain him for deportation.

In September, a federal judge in Chicago ruled the U.S. Justice Department can't withhold millions of dollars in grants supporting public safety from cities that refuse to share with federal officials the immigration status of suspects in custody.

Zarate had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth deportation at the time of Steinle's death.

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The sheriff's department released him a few days later after the district attorney dropped the marijuana charge, despite a USA request to detain him for deportation.

"There was a tremendous amount of misinformation that was spread about this case from day one", San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi told reporters outside the courtroom.

The case became a lightning rod for Trump and others in the push to halt illegal immigration and penalize so-called sanctuary cities, including San Francisco. She was a 32-year-old medical equipment saleswoman.

Steinle, her father and a friend were at the pier when a bullet struck Steinle's lower back and tore through her abdominal aorta, authorities said.

After the verdict, a Public Defender Jeff Adachi also released a statement saying Zarate was "extremely relieved" by the decision and while Steinle's death "was a awful tragedy", it was used as "political fodder for the then candidate Donald Trump's anti-immigration agenda", Fox News reported.

"Her death was preventable - and it should have been prevented", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in July.

In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump tried to link Democrat Hillary Clinton to the controversy. The legislation would increase maximum prison penalties for immigrants caught repeatedly entering the USA illegally.


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