Late Thursday jurors in the Kate Steinle murder trial found that the accused, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an illegal immigrant, is not guilty. After six days of deliberation, the case was finally decided, a case which began on Pier 14 in San Francisco in July 2015.
On that day, Steinle was with her father and a family friend when she was shot, collapsing into her father’s arms. The accused had been released from a San Francisco jail only three months before the shooting and was requested by federal immigration authorities to detain him for deportation, according to Fox News.
The high-profile case has stirred a nation’s interest in how illegal immigrants are treated in sanctuary cities, which includes San Francisco. Though Zarate’s immigration status drew droves of eyes to it from across the nation, it was never a factor in the actual trial.
Dozens of witnesses shared testimony in the 12-day trial, which ended with two days of closing arguments. While there was no doubt that Zarate fired the gun that killed Steinle, jurors had to decide whether Steinle’s death was a tragic accident, or murder.
Zarate’s defense team argued during the trial that he found the gun on the pier and that it fired accidentally. The jurors, before deciding the verdict, asked to see the gun up close. The gun was in fact stolen, taken from the parked car of a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger a week earlier.
Crime scene investigators determined that the bullet hit the pier’s concrete walkway then ricocheted, striking Steinle and killing her. Zarate maintained throughout the trial that he was innocent of murder, and that the shooting was a terrible accident.
The prosecution, however, had argued a far different scenario. They maintained that Zarate intentionally shot the gun at Steinle in a perverse game of “Russian roulette.”
Though Zarate’s immigration status never played a factor in the trial, it inevitably found itself in the national spotlight. During the investigation, local law enforcement officials were barred from cooperating with federal immigration authorities because San Francisco has identified itself as a sanctuary city.
President Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding to sanctuary cities like San Francisco, but a federal judge in California permanently blocked his executive order last week.
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