Jurors have found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty of killing Kate Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco in July 2015 in the trial that sparked a national debate over illegal immigration.
Jurors reached the decision Thursday in the sixth day of deliberations after first receiving the case last week.
Steinle was walking with her father and a family friend in July 2015 when she was shot, collapsing into her father’s arms. Zarate had been released from a San Francisco jail about three months before the shooting, despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him for deportation.
San Francisco is a sanctuary city, with local law enforcement officials barred from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. President Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding to cities with similar immigration policies, but a federal judge in California permanently blocked his executive order last week.
While Zarate’s immigration status is what brought the case into the national spotlight, jurors did not hear evidence about that, and it was not a factor in the trial.
After 12 days of testimony, dozens of witnesses and two days of closing arguments, the jury had to decide whether Steinle’s death was the result of an act of murder or a tragic accident.
Earlier in the day, the bailiff and court clerk were seen entering the jury room with a small yellow evidence bag before retreating with it a few minutes later.
A source inside the courtroom confirmed that the jury asked to see the gun used to shoot Steinle. Zarate and his defense team maintained the argument that the suspect found the stolen weapon on the pier that day and it “just fired.”
The gun belonged to a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger and was stolen from his parked car a week earlier.
The bullet ricocheted on the pier’s concrete walkway before it struck Steinle, killing her. Zarate has admitted to shooting Steinle, but says it was an accident.
However, the prosecution painted a very different picture, telling jurors that Zarate deliberately shot the gun towards Steinle while “playing his own secret version of Russian roulette.”
Fox News’ Jennifer Girdon in San Francisco and The Associated Press contributed to this report.