The case put San Francisco and its ‘sanctuary city’ policy in the spotlight, as Democrats and Republicans lashed out at city officials for refusing to cooperate with federal deportation efforts
A jury on Thursday found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty in the death of Kate Steinle, a case that sparked a nationwide debate on immigration. Garcia Zarate, a Mexican man who was in the United States illegally, shot Steinle on a San Francisco pier in 2015.
Garcia Zarate was found guilty of illegal firearms possession, which carries a sentence of 16 months to three years.
“I’m relieved,” Public Defender Jeff Adachi said after the verdict reading, adding that evidence in the case played a big role in the not-guilty verdict. “There was a lot of misinformation and bad publicity.”
Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez added: “The verdict does not diminish in any way the awful tragedy” the Steinle family went through.
Prosecutors said the verdict was not what they had hoped for, but they respect the decision.
“Both sides fought very hard,” prosecutor Alex Bastian said. “This is really about the Steinle family.”
The jury of six men and six women started deliberations last Tuesday and considered dueling arguments that Garcia Zarate was either a hapless, homeless man who killed Steinle in a freak accident or a calculated murderer intent on playing a sick game.
Jurors during deliberations considered first-degree murder, second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.
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 death put San Francisco and its “sanctuary city” policy in the spotlight, as Democrats and Republicans lashed out at city officials for refusing to cooperate with federal deportation efforts.
During the presidential race, then-candidate Donald Trump cited the killing as a reason to toughen U.S. immigration policies.
President Trump later signed an executive order to cut funding from cities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities, a policy that a federal judge in San Francisco permanently blocked Monday.
But the politics of immigration were not allowed to come up in the monthlong trial.
“Today is vindication for the rights of immigrants,” defense attorney Francisco Ugarte said. “Nothing about (Garcia Zarate’s) ethnicity or immigration status was relevant in this case.”
Gonzalez added: “Many people have criticized this case, including the attorney general of the U.S., the president and the vice president. Let me remind them that they’re themselves under investigation by special prosecution in Washington, D.C.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions released the following statement:
“When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk. San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle.
“While the State of California sought a murder charge for the man who caused Ms. Steinle’s death—a man who would not have been on the streets of San Francisco if the city simply honored an ICE detainer—the people ultimately convicted him of felon in possession of a firearm. The Department of Justice will continue to ensure that all jurisdictions place the safety and security of their communities above the convenience of criminal aliens. I urge the leaders of the nation’s communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers.”
Published 3 hours ago | Updated 11 minutes ago