San Francisco, California, USA: The undocumented immigrant who killed Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier in July 2015 has been found not guilty of murder. Jurors began deliberating Tuesday in the murder trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was acquitted of murder in the first and second degree, as well as an alternate charge of involuntary manslaughter, in the death of 32-year old Kate Steinle. He was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The decision indicates that the jury of six women and six men was convinced that the shooting was an accident.
Garcia Zarate, 45, was accused of fatally shooting Steinle, 32, with a Sig Sauer .40-caliber handgun as she and her father walked on San Francisco’s Pier 14. Garcia Zarate, faced a charge of second-degree murder, but jurors were also allowed to consider first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter convictions.
Jurors had to decide whether Garcia Zarate shot Steinle unintentionally or committed murder.
The basic question the jury had to decide was whether Garcia Zarate intentionally and willfully fired the single shot that killed Kate Steinle. The prosecution said that Garcia Zarate fired a handgun deliberately in Steinle’s direction, seeking to harm her or others.
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. The defense also offered expert witnesses who testified that the bullet ricocheted off of the ground and traveled about 78 feet before striking Steinle.
The case became a political lightning rod in the debate over immigration policy.
Garcia Zarate had been deported from the US five times prior to Steinle’s 2015 death in San Francisco.
Garcia Zarate was formerly known as Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, one of several aliases he is known to have used.
Garcia Zarate’s undocumented status and San Francisco’s status as a “sanctuary city” prompted widespread debate over immigration policies.
Garcia Zarate had been deported from the United States back to Mexico five times. Before the shooting, officials in San Francisco released him from custody instead of turning him over to immigration authorities.
Steinle’s death became a rallying cry for President Donald Trump and others, who have invoked the case in decrying sanctuary cities and promoting the construction of a border wall between the US and Mexico.
In June, the House of Representatives passed “Kate’s Law,” a bill that would create harsher penalties for repeat illegal entry to the US. The bill would also expand US law to pressure local cities to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
This summer, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3004, dubbed “Kate’s Law” — a measure named for Steinle. The legislation would increase maximum prison penalties for immigrants caught repeatedly entering the US illegally.
The measure was introduced in the Senate but failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass.