Kate Steinle: Trump outrage over murder case acquittal

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Kate Steinle: Trump outrage over murder case acquittal
Kate Steinle was 32 when she was shot dead while walking with her father
Kate Steinle was 32 when she was shot dead while walking with her father

(BBC) – An illegal immigrant from Mexico who shot a woman in San Francisco in 2015 in what he said he was an accident has been acquitted of her murder.

The killing of Kate Steinle by Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, deported from the US five times, sparked a row over illegal immigration.

While the jury cleared him of murder and manslaughter, he was convicted of illegally possessing a firearm.

US President Donald Trump described the verdict as “disgraceful”.

“No wonder the people of our country are so angry with illegal immigration,” he said in a tweet.

Garcia Zarate did not deny shooting Ms Steinle but said it was an accident, the Associated Press news agency reports.

He faces a potential sentence of between 16 months and three years.

He had been released from prison by the San Francisco sheriff’s department shortly before the killing.

Despite being in the country illegally, he wasn’t handed over to immigration officials because San Francisco’s “sanctuary” law means city authorities do not co-operate with immigration officials.

Reason in the face of despair

Forget the politicians for a moment and think about Kate Steinle’s family. The debate about immigration has been full of bluster on both sides but the people whose anguish is deepest have remained calm and nuanced.

They told the San Francisco Chronicle that they supported the concept of “sanctuary cities” as a way to protect “law-abiding immigrants”.

“We’re a country of kind people,” said Ms Steinle’s father Jim but, added her mother Kate Sullivan, “it was never meant to be a safe harbour for violent criminals”.

To summarise their complex position, they believe a sanctuary city law should remain in place but that its implementation is flawed.

Such rational discussion in the face of despair should give the United States inspiration.

In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions urged “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 co-operate with federal law enforcement officers”.

Garcia Zarate was charged in July 2015 with the shooting of Ms Steinle, 32, while she was walking with her father and a friend on a pier in San Francisco.

His defence team argued the gun had gone off by accident with the bullet ricocheting into Ms Steinle, who died in the arms of her father.

Prosecutors contended he had intentionally fired the weapon.

During last year’s presidential election campaign, Mr Trump frequently highlighted the case as he argued for tighter immigration controls and for sanctuary cities to be penalised.

He described the death of Ms Steinle as “a senseless and totally preventable violent act committed by an illegal immigrant”.

In June, Mr Trump announced a plan called “Kate’s law”, which he said would increase penalties for deportees who re-enter the US.

Defence lawyer Francisco Ugarte said after the verdict that the case had been used to “foment hate”.

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