The sole conviction against the illegal immigrant who shot and killed California resident Kate Steinle, 32, has been tossed out.
Steinle was shot in 2015 in San Francisco. San Francisco is one of dozens of U.S. "sanctuary cities" that protect illegal immigrants from deportation. The shooter, a homeless Mexican man named Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate, had been deported to Mexico five times prior to the shooting and was in the U.S. illegally when he killed Steinle.
Garcia-Zarate said he unknowingly picked up the gun wrapped in a T-shirt, and that it went off accidentally. A jury found him not guilty of murder charges in 2017 and convicted him on one count of being felon in possession of a firearm.
However, on Friday, an appeals court in San Francisco said the trial judge erred in failing to give the jury the option of finding Garcia-Zarate not guilty because he possessed the weapon only for a short time.
Even with the lone conviction thrown out, Garcia-Zarate is not a free man. He faced federal charges of gun possession and being in the U.S. illegally.
According to Garcia-Zarate's attorney, the federal trial is scheduled to begin January 13. Lawyer Tony Serra is quoted as telling Associated Press that Friday's court decision will also give state prosecutors the chance to try Garcia-Zarate again for Steinle's death, if they choose.
That kind of error causes reversals all the time. Then the prosecution has the prerogative of going again. The state case is a heavier case because it's a homicide and a gun. ... It's going to be a big potential decision on what they're going to do.Tony Serra, attorney for illegal immigrant Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate
According to Fox News: "Three months before the killing, Garcia-Zarate was released from custody after a drug case against him was dropped. The sheriff’s office, which had ended contact between jail employees and immigration officials, ignored a request by federal authorities to hold Garcia-Zarate until they could assume custody and did not inform them that he was being released."
Meantime, an appeals court already denied Steinle's parents the chance to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against San Francisco.
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