Trump criticises 'disgraceful verdict' after Mexican man found not guilty of US murder

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate (45) was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm

Trump criticises 'disgraceful verdict' after Mexican man found not guilty of US murder

In this July 17, 2015 file photo, flowers and a portrait of Kate Steinle remain at a memorial site on Pier 14 in San Francisco. Picture by: Paul Chinn/AP/Press Association Images

A Mexican man has been found not guilty of murdering a woman on a San Francisco pier.

Kate Steinle, 32, was fatally shot in the back as she walked on the pier with her father in 2015.

The case sparked an immigration debate which especially focused on San Francisco's sanctuary city policy, which limits the level of cooperation between local officials and US immigration authorities.

Ms Steinle's killing was also used in Donald Trump's campaign as the then presidential candidate pushed for a wall between the US and Mexico.

The President described the verdict on Twitter as "disgraceful":

At the time of the shooting, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was waiting to be deported from the US for the sixth time.

He had recently finished a prison sentence for illegal re-entry into the US and had been moved to San Francisco's jail in March 2015 on a 20-year-old marijuana charge.

He was released a few days later after the charge was dropped, despite immigration authorities wanting to deport him.

Prosecutors claimed he had intended to kill Ms Steinle on 1 July but Mr Garcia Zarate himself had called it an accident.

The bullet had ricocheted on the pier's walkway before hitting Ms Steinle.

After a month-long trial, the jury rejected possible charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder.

They did, however, find the 45-year-old guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm, which has a maximum penalty of three years' jail.

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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.

"The jury came back with the verdict they did, and we will respect that decision.

"This is really about the Steinle family. They showed incredible resolve during this whole process."

Jim Steinle, Kate's father, said they were shocked and saddened by the verdict.

He told the San Francisco Chronicle that "justice was rendered but not served".

He said they had felt frustration and sadness but not anger or vindictiveness since the loss of Ms Steinle.

Even if Garcia Zarate had received a sentence of 100 years, he added, "it doesn't solve anything, it doesn't help anything".

Defence lawyer Francisco Ugarte said after the verdict: "From Day One, this case was used as a means to foment hate, to foment division and to foment a program of mass deportation.

"It was used to catapult a presidency along that philosophy of hate of others.

"I believe today is a day of vindication for the rest of immigrants."