Steinle was fatally shot in the back in 2015, and although Zarate didn't deny shooting Steinle, he said it was an accident.
Zarate, of Mexico, had been deported several times and has previous convictions for re-entry after deportation. [The] Assistant District Attorney [-] spent much of the trial seeking to prove the gun that killed Steinle couldn't have fired without a firm pull of the trigger, while establishing that Garcia Zarate tossed the weapon into the bay before fleeing the scene - an implication of his guilt, she said.
"From day one, this case was used as a means to foment hate, to foment division and to foment a program of mass deportation", public defender Francisco Ugarte said.
The six-man, six-woman jury reached the verdict on the sixth day of deliberations following a four-week trial.
The jury of six men and six women - including three immigrants - found Garcia Zarate not guilty of homicide.
Prosecutors said Garcia Zarate was playing his own "secret version of Russian roulette" and deliberately fired into an unsuspecting crowd on the pier, killing Steinle. The defense argued that the shooting was unintentional, that the defendant found the gun wrapped in a cloth under his seat at the pier and that it accidentally discharged.
"A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case!"
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After the verdict, a Public Defender Jeff Adachi also released a statement saying Zarate was "extremely relieved" by the decision and while Steinle's death "was a awful tragedy", it was used as "political fodder for the then candidate Donald Trump's anti-immigration agenda", Fox News reported.
"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".
In an interview with local media, Zarate said he had made his way to San Francisco because he knew he would be less likely to be deported because of the city's sanctuary policies.
Steinle, her father and a friend were at the pier when a bullet struck Steinle's lower back and tore through her abdominal aorta, authorities said.
"For Donald Trump, we were just what he needed-beautiful girl, San Francisco, illegal immigrant, arrested a million times, a violent crime and yadda, yadda, yadda", Steinle's mother, Liz Sullivan, told the San Francisco Chronicle months after her daughter's death.
Steinle's death became a rallying cry for Trump and others, who have invoked the case in decrying sanctuary cities and promoting the construction of the border wall.
Trump also mentioned Steinle in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention after winning the Republican presidential nomination. But it's unlikely to have enough votes to pass the Senate, which struggled with Kate's Law past year.