President Donald Trump is leading the outrage after a Mexican illegal immigrant who admitted shooting and killing Kate Steinle while she was walking with her father on a San Francisco pier was found not guilty of second-degree murder.
Trump tweeted Friday morning that the verdict was ‘a complete travesty of justice’ and linked the result to what he called America’s ”weakly protected Obama border’ – and issued a new demand that the U.S. wall off Mexico from the United States.
He also took issue with the amount of information that was raised in court.
‘The jury was not told the killer of Kate was a 7 time felon. The Schumer/Pelosi Democrats are so weak on Crime that they will pay a big price in the 2018 and 2020 Elections,’ Trump tweeted.
He also said Zarate was ‘always committing crimes and being violent, and yet this info was not used in court.’
The president tweeted late Thursday night that the jury delivered ‘[a] disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration.’
His eldest son Donald Jr. also tweeted about the verdict after attending the White House tree lighting ceremony. ‘What a disgrace,’ he wrote. ‘Don’t let the rest of the country become California. If this isn’t a wake call up (sic) to reasonable and law abiding people I don’t know what is.’
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who has been deported five times, was acquitted of second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon on Thursday after Steinle, 32, was gunned down on July 1, 2015.
The shooting sparked a nationwide debate on removing illegal immigrants with criminal records and ignited Trump’s campaign rallying cry to stop funding sanctuary cities.
Though Garcia Zarate admitted to shooting Steinle in the back, he has maintained that the gun went off accidentally.
He was also not found guilty of involuntary manslaughter or assault with a firearm, and was only convicted on being a felon in possession of a weapon.
Garcia Zarate faces between 16 months and three years in state prison, but US immigration officials have said he will be deported whenever his case is finished.
Don Jr also blamed the verdict on democrats. Responding to a question Charlie Kirk posed in a tweet about how ‘an illegal alien can kill someone and walk away,’ Don Jr responded ‘Liberals… and the general lack of common sense so prevalent amongst them.’
The case took on political overtones in 2015 during the presidential election and fueled then-candidate Trump’s cries to defund sanctuary cities, tighten immigration policies and build a border wall.
Steinle’s frustrated family told the San Francisco Chronicle that they were ‘saddened and shocked’ by the controversial verdict.
‘There’s no other way you can coin it,’ Kate’s father Jim Steinle told the newspaper. ‘Justice was rendered, but it was not served.’ He was by her side the moment she was killed.
But her brother Brad said he wasn’t surprised by the verdict because of the ‘epic failure’ that saw Garcia Zarate on the streets and with a loaded gun in his hands.
Before the shooting, Garcia Zarate had been deported five times and served federal prison time for illegally re-entering the United States.
He had also been released from the San Francisco jail about three months before the slaying, despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him for further deportation proceedings.
San Francisco is a so-called sanctuary city that bars city officials from cooperating with federal immigration deportation efforts.
The jury reached its verdict Thursday after six days of deliberation.
At some point during deliberation they asked to see the gun.
After the decision was announced Public Defender Matt Gonzalez came out to say it he thinks it was the right decision because Garcia Zarate deserves the right to a jury.
‘This jury’s verdict should be respected,’ Gonzalez said.
‘They heard the evidence, they deliberated as a group, they heard read-back testimony, they looked at the physical evidence, and they rendered a verdict to the best of their abilities in accordance with the law.’
He specifically took aim at President Donald Trump – reminding him that he is also under investigation and deserves the same due process. He explained that if a jury had a shred doubt, they could not find Garcia Zarate guilty.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi also released a statement to say Zarate is ‘extremely relieved’ by the verdict.
He called Steinle’s death a ‘horrible tragedy,’ but said the incident was used as a ‘political fodder for then candidate Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda.
‘Despite the unfairly politicized atmosphere surrounding this case, jurors focused on the evidence, which was clear and convincing, and rendered a just verdict.’
A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions hit out at lawmakers in California and in sanctuary cities for the decision, in part blaming them for Steir’s death.
‘When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk,’ he said in a statement Thursday night.
‘San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle.
‘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 Department of Justice will continue to ensure that all jurisdictions place the safety and security of their communities above the convenience of criminal aliens.
‘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.’
A flurry of right-wing politicians and commentators also joined in to remark on their horror over the verdict.
‘Horrifying verdict on Steinle murderer. Politics trumps evidence in California once again,’ conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said called the verdict ‘outrageous’ and said the ‘illegal alien’ was ‘given more rights, grace and favor than the devastated Steinle family.’
Texas Senator Ted Cruz also issued a statement over twitter about the verdict to say he is disappointed and angry.
‘I am disappointed and angry at the not guilty verdict Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an illegal alien who had several felony convictions & was deported from the US five times,’ he wrote. ‘Justice must be served for Kate Steinle.’
And Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell chimed in with his disappointment in the outcome.
‘I greatly respect our jury system, but I could not disagree more with this verdict,’ Swalwell wrote. ‘I pray for Kate’s family.’
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a statement late Thursday to say San Francisco’s ‘policy of refusing to honor ICE detainers is a blatant threat to public safety and undermines the rule of law.
‘This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had simply turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets.
‘It is unconscionable that politicians across this country continue to endanger the lives of Americans with sanctuary policies while ignoring the harm inflicted on their constituents.
‘Following the conclusion of this case, ICE will work to take custody of Mr Garcia Zarate and ultimately remove him from the country.’
Politics, however, did not come up in the month-long trial that featured extensive testimony from ballistics experts. Defense attorneys argued that Garcia Zarate was a hapless homeless man who killed Steinle in a freak accident. Prosecutors said he meant to shoot and kill her.
Before the jury was dismissed for deliberation, Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia argued in her closing argument that Garcia Zarate had found the gun somewhere and deliberately shot it toward Steinle while playing ‘his own secret version of Russian roulette.’
The bullet ricocheted on the pier’s concrete walkway before it struck Steinle. She then died in her father Jim Steinle’s arms.
Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez told jurors that prosecutors were pushing a ‘wild narrative of a desire to hurt someone he does not know.’
During the presidential race, then-candidate Donald Trump cited the killing as a reason to toughen US immigration policies.
‘My opponent wants sanctuary cities,’ Trump said in 2016 at the Republican National Convention.
‘But where was the sanctuary for Kate Steinle?’
But the trial focused on circumstantial evidence and extensive testimony from ballistics experts.
The semi-automatic handgun used to kill Steinle was stolen from a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger a week before the shooting.
The defense has said that Garcia Zarate found the gun wrapped in a shirt under a chair on the pedestrian pier and it went off by accident when he picked it up.
San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng ruled last week that the jury can consider a more serious charge of first-degree murder in addition to a second-degree murder charge.
The defense was scheduled to finish arguments today before jurors begin deliberations.
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