A San Francisco jury found an undocumented immigrant not guilty of murder Thursday in a case that sparked national debate about sanctuary cities and us immigration policy.
The jury found him not guilty of the assault charge but convicted him of the possession charge.
Donald Trump used Steinle's killing and Garcia Zarate's trial in his campaign for president, while calling for tougher immigration laws. Proceedings lasted about one month.
The basic question the jury had to decide was whether Garcia Zarate intentionally and willfully fired the single shot that killed Kate Steinle.
He had been deported from the United States five times prior to Steinle's death. 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.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi says Garcia Zarate faces 16 months to three years for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The semi-automatic handgun used to kill Steinle was stolen from a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger a week before the shooting.
Steinle's father, James Steinle, who was with her when she was shot, took the stand for the prosecution back in late October, and in emotional testimony, described not understanding what had happened to his daughter initially.
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Despite the national political implications, the San Francisco jury was charged with a more discreet task of criminal culpability for Steinle's death.
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, arrested in connection with the July 1, 2015, shooting of Kate Steinle on a pier in San Francisco is led into the Hall of Justice for his arraignment in San Francisco, California, U.S. on July 7, 2015.
Zarate, 45, was released from the San Francisco jail before the date of Steinle's death, despite a federal request that he be kept in the jail until his sixth deportation.
Kathryn Steinle was fatally wounded while walking the San Francisco waterfront in 2015 by Zarate who had been deported to Mexico on five previous occasions.
Defense attorneys have told jurors that Garcia Zarate lived on the streets of San Francisco after being released from jail, scraping together a living by collecting recyclables and scavenging for food. He had just completed a federal prison sentence for re-entering the country after deportation when he was transferred to San Francisco by federal authorities based on a warrant for a marijuana charge.
"My opponent wants Sanctuary Cities".
Since taking office, President Donald Trump's administration has tightened immigration enforcement and warned sanctuary cities they could lose funding if they refuse to cooperate with federal authorities.
"Her death was preventable - and it should have been prevented", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in July.