A Mexican immigrant was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in San Francisco on Thursday in the politically charged shooting death of a woman, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on its Twitter page. "And I believe today is a vindication for the rights of immigrants".
Garcia Zarate said he found the stolen gun wrapped in a shirt under a chair on a pedestrian pier and that the weapon accidentally fired when he picked it up. Prosecutors said he meant to shoot and kill her.
"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 jury seemed to have been convinced by defense arguments that Garcia-Zarate had no direct intention of firing the.40-caliber Sig Sauer pistol that he found that day on the waterfront, four days after it had been stolen from a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger's auto nearby.
The family did not attend the reading of the verdict.
Steinle was walking on Pier 14 with her father and a family friend around 6:30 p.m. when she was struck in the back by a single bullet that had ricocheted off the pier before it hit her.
"He did kill someone".
The prosecutor on Monday referred to Steinle as a "vibrant life" taken too soon but otherwise did not dwell on the victim in a closing argument that lasted about an hour.
Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez said in his closing remarks that he knows it's hard to believe Garcia Zarate found an object that turned out to be a weapon that fired when he picked it up.
Instead, she painted a picture of a man who hid a firearm in his baggy clothes, went to a pier filled with tourists and whirled about on a stool for more than 20 minutes before shooting it at Steinle's back. The round had skipped off the concrete ground after being fired from a pistol that had been stolen, four days earlier, from the nearby parked vehicle of a federal ranger.
While the jurors didn't hear evidence regarding Zarate's immigration status, the shooting came roughly three months after a San Francisco jail released him despite federal immigration authorities' request he remain detained before his deportation. The city has been plagued by an epidemic of auto burglaries in recent years.
The case gained national attention during the 2016 presidential race when then-candidate Donald Trump cited it as an example of why the sanctuary cities, which limit a city's cooperation with the federal government's efforts to enforce immigration law, should be ended.
After he was elected president, Trump signed an executive order to cut funding from cities that limit cooperation with USA immigration authorities, a policy that a federal judge in San Francisco permanently blocked Monday. The administration has appealed.