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California Court Overturns Conviction Against Illegal Immigrant in Kate Steinle Death Case

CC BY 2.0 / / Gavel
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The court reversal allows the prosecution to re-try the man on murder charges, gun possession and illegal immigration, according to his attorney. The migrant was deported to Mexico five times before the killing.

A California state appeals court on Friday overturned the sole remaining conviction against an illegal immigrant who shot and killed a 32-year old US citizen, Kate Steinle, Fox News reported Friday. 

Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate, an illegal immigrant who has been deported back to Mexico five times, shot Steinle on 1 July 2015, when she was walking with her father and friend at the San Francisco waterfront.

The migrant claimed he unwittingly picked up a gun wrapped in a t-shirt, and the weapon fired accidentally. In November 2017, the court acquitted him of first and second degree murder charges, involuntary manslaughter charge and assault with a semi-automatic weapon charge. He was only convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

On Friday, the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco overturned that remaining conviction, saying that the judge failed to give the jury the option of acquitting the migrant on assumption he only possessed the weapon for a moment.

​This does not mean Garcia-Zarate was acquitted, but that he will be retried, with a new trial scheduled for 13 January, 2020.

"That kind of error causes reversals all the time. Then the prosecution has the prerogative of going again," his attorney said, according to Fox. 

Earlier this year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Steinle’s parents against the city of San Francisco. The lawsuit alleged that San Francisco’s “sanctuary city” policy and county sheriff Ross Mirkarimi bore responsibility for Kate’s death.

The allegations were based on the fact that three months before Steinle’s murder, Garcia-Zarate was released from custody after a drug case against him was dropped. Federal immigration officials issued a request to hold the illegal immigrant before they can assume custody of him, but the sheriff ignored the request and let the man free without informing Washington.

The Steinle case gained nationwide attention, as politicians, including then-presidential candidate Trump, cited the case as a point against sanctuary cities in favor of swift deportation of illegals.

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