Attorney, Former Sacramento County Sheriff Weigh in on Kate Steinle Verdict

SACRAMENTO -- A two-and-a-half year wait for justice leaves Kate Steinle's family grappling with a not guilty verdict in her death and those in the political and legal systems analyzing what the verdict means for those who made her murder case a litmus test in the illegal immigration debate.

Everyone from President Trump to the Sacramento County sheriff pointed to this case as a reason for stricter immigration policy, but jurors didn't even get to hear testimony about the killer's deportations.

"No, the defense was worried that that would be prejudicial and only have minimal relevance, and the relevance would be outweighed by the prejudice. If people heard this they would not think this was an accident and focus on that, but this, I'd like to punish him," said Mark Reichel, a Sacramento defense attorney.

"The indictment of the city and county of San Francisco for their sanctuary status and practice, the logical conclusion of that is it might cause the people, prospective jurors, to arch their backs a little bit and defend the principles on which they believe," said former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness, about the more liberal views held in the Bay Area.

Mexican national Jose Ines Garcia Zarate had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth violation when he shot 32-year-old Steinle as she walked on San Francisco's Pier 14 with her dad.

In what became a national campaign against illegal immigration and sanctuary city status, Sacramento County's current sheriff loudly pointed to the loss of local law officers as well as Steinle at the hands of those who'd breached America's borders.

Twenty-two days after her death, he testified at a congressional hearing on the matter with these words, "there's also a percentage of that community that chooses to victimize others as a way of life."

Thursday he declined requests for comment after the verdict came in.

With testimony from a now-retired police investigator, Zarate's  public defender was able to present evidence of a ricocheting bullet -- successfully convincing jurors that Steinle was shot by accident and not specifically targeted.

"This is definitely a coup for public defenders. This individual is a county public defender and against all the forces of the crown and public opinion, he was able to do what the constitution requires him to do which is zealously, zealously advocate for his client," said Reichel.

"I am not the slightest bit surprised by the verdict, and frankly, I'm a little bit surprised that anybody is," said McGinness.

"I believe had it been in most other counties in the state -- most -- a manslaughter conviction would have been a reality," he said.

The Steinle family could still go after Zarate through a federal civil rights lawsuit, claiming Kate's right to safety on U.S. soil was violated by someone who had no right to be here.