A San Francisco jury found the illegal immigrant accused of killing Kate Steinle not guilty of murder Thursday, a stunning result in a case that ignited a nationwide debate over illegal immigration and sanctuary cities.
They say San Francisco's status as a "sanctuary city" limits their cooperation with United States immigration authorities.
Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the San Francisco prosecutor's office, said the "verdict that came in today was not the one we were hoping for" but it was the jury's decision and prosecutors would respect it.
Steinle's death became a rallying cry for President Donald Trump and others, who have invoked the case in decrying sanctuary cities and promoting the construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
A judge ruled last week that the jury of six men and six women could consider a more serious charge of first-degree murder in addition to a second-degree murder charge.
"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 being a felon in possession of a firearm", Sessions said.
Sessions says San Francisco's "decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death" of Kate Steinle.
Defense attorney Francisco Ugarte said Thursday the death of Kate Steinle was an "incomprehensible tragedy", but the ruling was a vindication for immigrants. Garcia Zarate didn't deny shooting Steinle and said it was an accident.
Speaking after the verdict, Garcia Zarate's chief defense attorney, Matt Gonzalez, noted not only Sessions' previous comments on the case but also sharply warned Trump and others in his administration against commenting on the outcome, equating the case to the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russians.
The bullet ricocheted on the pier's concrete walkway and fatally struck Steinle in the back. He said the immigration status of defendant had no relevance to the case, and the verdict was a correct reflection of what transpired.
But he told jurors that Garcia Zarate had no motivation to kill Steinle and that as very bad as her death was, "nothing you do is going to fix that".
The sheriff's department released him a few days later after prosecutors dropped the marijuana charge, despite a request from federal immigration officials to detain him for deportation.
He said Americans should be asking a very important question: "What good comes out of a sanctuary city law?"
President Donald Trump cited the case during his campaign in a bid to show the country needed tougher immigration policies.
A Mexican immigrant was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in San Francisco on Thursday in the politically charged shooting death of a woman, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on its Twitter page.
Hannity noted that Zarate had been released from a San Francisco jail about three months before the shooting, despite a federal request that he be held for deportation.
President Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr. responded to the verdict and tweeted out saying: "What a disgrace".