Illegal immigrant acquitted of murder in politically charged San Francisco trial

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A jury on Thursday found a Mexican man not guilty in the killing of a woman on a San Francisco pier that touched off a national immigration debate two years ago, rejecting possible charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder.

At trial, Zarate admitted to firing the shot that killed Steinle, 32, but contended that he had picked up a gun underneath a bench on the San Francisco pier and accidentally fired it July 1, 2015.

"This man, or this animal, that shot that wonderful, that handsome woman in San Francisco, this guy was pushed back by Mexico", Donald Trump told CNN in July 2015 shortly after announcing his candidacy. He has repeatedly warned about violent Latino gangs flourishing in sanctuary cities, and used the crime as part of his efforts to justify a crackdown on undocumented immigrants and win support for a wall he wants built along the USA boarder with Mexico.

Sanctuary supporters say enlisting police in deportation actions undermines community trust in local law enforcement, particularly among Latinos.

The defense insisted, as per the Chronicle, that Garcia-Zarate, "who had a history of drug crimes but no record of violence, found the gun wrapped in a T-shirt or cloth under his seat on the pier just seconds before it discharged in his hands".

Zarate, of Mexico, had been deported several times and has previous convictions for re-entry after deportation.

"I urge the leaders of the nation's communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

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A photo of murder victim Kate Steinle, right, is placed on an easel as her father Jim Steinle (second from left) prepares to testify about her murder during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on USA immigration enforcement policies, on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 21, 2015.

Prosecutors said the verdict was not what they had hoped for, but they respect the decision.

Despite the national political implications, the San Francisco jury was charged with a more discreet task of criminal culpability for Steinle's death. Freya Horne, chief legal counsel to the county sheriff who runs the jail, told CNN that he was let go because there was no legal cause to detain the suspect.

"Donald Trump talks about Kate Steinle like he knows her". So that is something that sanctuary cities including San Francisco have always said they would comply with.

Steinle's death became a rallying cry for Trump and others, who have invoked the case in decrying sanctuary cities and promoting the construction of the border wall.

The sheriff's department released him a few days later after the district attorney dropped the marijuana charge, despite a US request to detain him for deportation.

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