Source: Fox News
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was found not guilty Thursday of murdering Kate Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco in July 2015 in a case that sparked a heated national debate over illegal immigration and so-called sanctuary cities, and U.S. immigration officials said he will be deported.
Zarate was acquitted of first and second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. He also was found not guilty of assault with a semi-automatic weapon. He was found guilty of possessing a firearm by a felon. The jury had deliberated for six days.
Steinle was walking with her father and a family friend in July 2015 when she was shot, collapsing into her father's arms. Zarate had been released from a San Francisco jail about three months before the shooting, despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him for deportation.
San Francisco is a sanctuary city, with local law enforcement officials barred from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. President Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding to cities with similar immigration policies, but a federal judge in California permanently blocked his executive order last week.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced late Thursday: "Following the conclusion of this case, ICE will work to take custody of Mr. Garcia Zarate and ultimately remove him from the country."
ICE Deputy Director Tom Homan added, "San Francisco's policy of refusing to honor ICE detainers is a blatant threat to public safety and undermines the rule of law. This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets."
In a response to the verdict, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement saying that despite California's attempt at a murder conviction, Zarate was able to walk away with only a firearm possession conviction because he was not turned over by San Francisco to ICE.
"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," the statement said. "San Francisco's decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle."
Upon leaving the courtroom, representatives from both sides spoke to reporters. Defense Attorney Matt Gonzalez offered his condolences to the Steinle family and said the outcome of the case did not make what happened in 2015 any less terrible.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi also released a statement saying Zarate was "extremely relieved" by the outcome and that while Steinle's death "was a horrible tragedy," it was used as "political fodder for then candidate Donald Trump's anti-immigration agenda."
Adachi added, "Despite the unfairly politicized atmosphere surrounding this case, jurors focused on the evidence, which was clear and convincing, and rendered a just verdict."
A spokesperson for the district attorney's office said the verdict was not the one prosecutors were seeking but at the end of the day, the jury ultimately makes the decision. Prosecutors also said the Steinle family was "incredible" and that their hearts went out to them.
While Zarate's immigration status brought the case into the national spotlight, jurors did not hear evidence about that, and it was not a factor in the trial.