The verdict is in and a jury in California has found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant, not guilty of homicide charges in the July 2015 death of Kate Steinle. The incident happened in San Francisco, which is a “sanctuary city,” and the verdict has left many on social media in an uproar.
While Garcia Zarate was acquitted on the homicide charges, CNN reported that he was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Before making the decision, the jury deliberated for more than 24 hours over six days.
The murder of Kate Steinle became a political lightning rod in the debate over immigration policy. The proceedings for this case lasted about one month.
Garcia Zarate, a 45-year-old Mexican citizen, had been deported from the United States five times prior to Steinle’s death. He is now subject to immediate deportation. He faced a charge of second-degree murder, but jurors were also allowed to consider first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter convictions.
Garcia Zarate was accused of fatally shooting Steinle, 32, with a Sig Sauer .40-caliber handgun. The shooting took place on San Francisco’s Pier 14, as she walked on it with her father and a friend. According to authorities, the bullet struck Steinle’s lower back and tore through her abdominal aorta.
In surveillance video, Garcia Zarate is shown running away from the scene. He was arrested and investigators found gunshot residue on his right hand, which is what prosecutor Diana Garcia told jurors. Prosecutors went on to say that Garcia Zarate was playing his own “secret version of Russian roulette” and deliberately fired into an unsuspecting crowd on the pier, which killed Steinle.
Garcia Zarate claimed it was an accident, as defense attorney Matt Gonzalez said Garcia Zarate found the gun at the pier. He said the gun was wrapped in cloth and when he unwrapped it, it accidentally discharged. However, during the police interrogation, Garcia Zarate admitted to firing the gun, but said he was aiming at a seal. He said he stepped on the gun, which caused it to fire.
During the trial, prosecutors said Garcia Zarate was trying to cover his tracks at the scene. They said he threw the gun into the San Francisco Bay and then fled the scene immediately.
Sanctuary Cities and “Kate’s Law”
As stated earlier, Garcia Zarate had been deported five other times back to Mexico. Before Steinle’s murder, officials in San Francisco released Garcia Zarate from custody instead of turning him over to immigration authorities since San Francisco is a sanctuary city.
Donald Trump and other Republicans have used Steinle’s death as a rallying cry to decry sanctuary cities and promote building the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
In June, the House of Representatives passed “Kate’s Law,” which CNN reported is a bill that would create harsher penalties for repeat illegal entry into the U.S. The bill would also expand U.S. law to put pressure on local cities to work with federal immigration enforcement.
The bill was passed in the House this summer. However, “Kate’s Law” was introduced in the Senate, but failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass.
After the verdict came in for Kate Steinle, many people on Twitter were furious with the decision.