Jurors Find Kate Steinle's Alleged Killer Not Guilty of Murder

CBS SAN FRANCISCO

The jury found him not guilty of the assault charge but convicted him of the possession charge.

Zarate had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth deportation at the time of Steinle's death. A law enforcement official later announced that the justice department may pursue charges against defendant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate.

Steinle, a medical equipment saleswoman, was out for a July afternoon walk with her dad on San Francisco's Pier 14 when she was struck in the back by a single bullet.

Jurors had to decide whether Garcia Zarate shot Steinle unintentionally or committed murder.

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.

Surveillance video showed Garcia Zarate running away.

During the presidential race, then-candidate Donald Trump cited the killing as a reason to toughen USA immigration policies.

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez told jurors the shooting was a tragic accident and that prosecutors were pushing a "wild narrative of a desire to hurt someone he does not know". But Garcia Zarate's defense attorney contended the shooting was accidental.

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The accused admitted to firing the weapon but said it was an accident. The gun accidentally fires, killing the husband.

"The verdict that came in today was not the one we were hoping for", said Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the San Francisco prosecutor's office. CNN and other media outlets previously identified him as Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. The incident sparked a nationwide debate over sanctuary cities and later became a central theme of Donald Trump's campaign for president.

Before the shooting, Garcia Zarate had finished a federal prison sentence for illegal re-entry into the United States and was transferred in March 2015 to San Francisco's jail to face a 20-year-old charge for selling marijuana.

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 United States and Mexico.

Steinle's father, James Steinle, who was with her when she was shot, took the stand for the prosecution back in late October, and in emotional testimony, described not understanding what had happened to his daughter initially. Nobody else has the guts to even talk about it.

Trump also mentioned Steinle in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention after winning the Republican presidential nomination.

This summer, the House of Representatives passed a bill known as Kate's Law, which would toughen penalties for illegal immigrants who have been deported and then illegally re-enter the country.

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