Trump Outraged By ‘Disgraceful Verdict’ In Murder Case Against Immigrant

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP

An undocumented immigrant, whose case Donald Trump consistently cited as rationale for a border wall during the campaign, was found not guilty of first-degree murder Thursday, a verdict President Trump said was “disgraceful.”

“A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with illegal immigration,” Trump tweeted Thursday night after the jury found Garcia Zarate, a Mexican man who has been deported from the U.S. five times, not guilty of the first degree murder of Steinle.

The young woman was walking on a popular San Francisco pier with her father and a friend when she was shot and killed in July 2015. Zarate’s defense argued he didn’t intentionally shoot Steinle, but rather the gun he found accidentally fired when he picked it up.

Trump called the jury’s decision a “travesty of justice” and tweeted “BUILD THE WALL!” Friday morning. He then took a swift turn, blaming Democrats for being “weak on crime” and claiming they would “pay a big price in the 2018 and 2020 elections.”

Trump’s outrage over the verdict is not surprising. Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump consistently pointed to the case as proof of the need for his border wall and as rationale for attacking his opponents for supporting sanctuary cities. Before the shooting, Zarate had just completed a federal prison sentence for illegally coming back to the U.S. after being deported and had been transferred to San Francisco to serve time for a 20-year-old charge for selling marijuana. He was released a few days later after prosecutors dropped the drug charges and was shielded from deportation because San Francisco is a sanctuary city.

But in the first-degree murder trial against Zarate for the shooting death of Steinle, the judge blocked attorneys from mentioning Zarate’s immigration status or the fact that he was deported back to Mexico five times before coming back across the border, asking the jury to only consider Zarate’s intentions on the night that Steinle was killed, the Associated Press reported.

The verdict outraged not only Trump, but the Justice Department. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has waged war with sanctuary cities — which bar local police from helping the federal government identify and deport undocumented immigrants — since taking office.

“San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle,” Sessions said in a statement Thursday evening. “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.”

Immigration officials said Thursday night that they plan to take Zarate into custody and deport him once his case concludes, the AP reported.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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