Jury Finds Illegal Immigrant Not Guilty in Killing of Kate Steinle

Kate Steinle's parents Jim Steinle and Liz Sullivan walk to a courtroom for closing arguments in the trial on Nov. 20

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 seemed to have been convinced by defense arguments that Garcia-Zarate had no direct intention of firing the.40-caliber Sig Sauer pistol that he found that day on the waterfront, four days after it had been stolen from a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger's vehicle nearby.

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 U.S. and Mexico.

Today after six days of deliberation, a Superior Court jury in San Francisco acquitted Garcia-Zarate on murder, manslaughter, and assault charges, finding him guilty only on a lesser charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Speaking after the verdict, Garcia Zarate's chief defense attorney, Matt Gonzalez, noted not only Sessions' previous comments on the case but also sharply warned Trump and others in his administration against commenting on the outcome, equating the case to the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russians.

He said the immigration status of defendant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate had no relevance to the case and the verdict was a correct reflection of what transpired. When he saw something was wrong, James Steinle said he grabbed her and noticed what appeared to be a bullet wound.

Several months after Steinle's death, Trump claimed that she had been shot five times.

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.

Jurors have found a Mexican man not guilty of murder in the killing of a woman on a San Francisco pier in a case that touched off a national immigration debate.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth deportation when Steinle was fatally shot in the back in 2015.

Its "sanctuary city" law limits cooperation with US immigration authorities.

Surveillance video showed Garcia Zarate running away.

San Francisco prosecutors dropped the charge and then the sheriff's department let him go, despite a federal detainer request.

At trial, Zarate admitted to firing the shot that killed Steinle, 32, but contended that he had picked up a gun underneath a bench on the San Francisco pier and accidentally fired it July 1, 2015. Word came hours after they asked to see the gun used in the shooting. Before the shooting, officials in San Francisco released him from custody instead of turning him over to immigration authorities.

President Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr. responded to the verdict and tweeted out saying: "What a disgrace".

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