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Case At Center Of Political Whirlwind Steered Clear Of Immigration

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Inside the courtroom of the Kate Steinle criminal case against Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, attorneys did not even touch on immigration.

It only hinged on whether this defendant acted with recklessness or intent to harm.

Sacramento attorney Mark Reichel watched the defense attorney Matt Gonzalez's strategy closely.

"He made sure that he was contrasted with the prosecution which was based on a lot of passion," Reichel said.

The defense won a critical motion preventing the prosecution from telling the jury Garcia Zarate's illegal immigration status.

"The defense argued it would have been too prejudicial, and it didn't really have much relevance to the case, the case is really whether he intended to harm someone," Reichel said.

And in the end, it was the defense argument that Garcia Zarate likely didn't want to harm anyone, that the jury believed.

The defense argued Garcia Zarate never pulled the trigger on the gun he found under a bench at the pier, but that it simply went off when he picked it up.

It was a question jurors asked about during deliberations.

"And I think at the end of the day, they just said, the people who bear the burden have not proven that this just wasn't an accident with this gun going off without having the trigger pulled," Reichel said.

Reichel says had this court case been held in Sacramento instead of San Francisco, prosecutors would have likely had more success.

"I think the jury pool in Sacramento County might have been a little different," Reichel said. "This is a pretty liberal jury pool in San Francisco, and it may have had a different flavor in Sacramento."

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