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Undocumented Mexican Man Found Not Guilty In Death Of Kate Steinle

Thursday - 30/11/2017 21:40
Steinle died after being shot in 2015 — which became a rallying cry for some conservatives for tougher immigration policies.

A jury on Thursday found the undocumented immigrant who shot 32-year-old Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier in 2015 not guilty in her death, a case that sparked a fierce national debate on immigration policies.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who was in the US illegally after five previous deportations, had been released from a San Francisco jail several months before the shooting — in spite of a request by federal immigration authorities that he continue to be detained. The case drew attention to San Francisco's "sanctuary city" policies, which then-candidate Donald Trump blamed for Steinle's death at the Republican National Convention.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate
San Francisco Police Department via AP
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate

Lawyers for Garcia Zarate had argued that characterizing him as a violent immigrant didn't line up with the evidence. The bullet that killed Steinle first ricocheted off the concrete walkway, which they said showed the shooting had been an accident, the Associated Press reported. Zarate had picked up the gun while it was wrapped in clothing, his attorneys said, and didn't know what he was holding until the gun went off.

Jurors considered charges of murder and involuntary manslaughter, ultimately acquitting Garcia Zarate after six days of deliberations. He was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm, which is expected to result in a sentence of 16 months to three years.

Prosecutors argued that Garcia Zarate brought the gun with him and pointed it at Steinle after sitting on the pier for more than 20 minutes and thinking about his actions. Jurors were instructed to consider charges against him of first- and second-degree murder, as well as involuntary manslaughter and assault with a semiautomatic firearm.

"He did kill someone. He took the life of a young, vibrant, beautiful, cherished woman by the name of Kate Steinle," San Francisco Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia told the jury on Nov. 21, according to the AP.

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez had on Nov. 20 told jurors that prosecutors' version of events was a "wild narrative of a desire to hurt someone he does not know."

On Thursday, he said the verdict should not be interpreted as an affront to the grief felt by Steinle's family.

“They should not interpret this verdict as diminishing their loss,” Gonzalez said. “The physical evidence dictated the outcome, I’m just the lawyer who guided it along.”

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