A California jury has found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, 45, not guilty of murder and involuntary manslaughter in the 2015 death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, a case that spawned the national debate over “sanctuary cities” in the United States.
Zarate was found guilty of one charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, a charge that carries a sentence of 16 months to three years, according to Buzzfeed. Jurors debated the case for more than 24 hours over six days.
The gun that killed Steinle came from a Bureau of Land Management ranger and had been stolen from his vehicle one week before the shooting. Prosecutors argued that Zarate carried the weapon before shooting Steinle, while Zarate’s defense attorneys argued he had found the weapon on the pier that day and it misfired, ricocheting off concrete and through Steinle’s lower back and abdominal aorta, according to CNN.
Zarate himself admitted to shooting Steinle but maintained that it was accidental.
By 2015, Zarate had been deported five times and had returned to San Francisco. Over the objection of federal authorities, he was released from jail just months before the shooting. Immigration authorities sought to have him detained for the initiation of proceedings that would end in his sixth deportation, according to Fox News.
Jim Steinle, the father of the victim, faulted “unjointed laws and basic incompetence of the government” in the death of his daughter and said he “should have never been on the streets in this country.”
Steinle’s death prompted “Kate’s Law,” which would have set harsh new penalties for deported illegal immigrants who returned to the United States and were caught. Those with felony convictions could see longer sentences of up to 25 years.
While the bill passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in July of this year, it has stalled in the Senate, despite a Republican majority in the chamber.