The gunshot that killed Kathryn Steinle in 2015 had several characteristics of an accidental discharge, a defense expert testified Wednesday in the high-profile San Francisco murder trial.
The testimony drives at the crux of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate's defense: He picked up an object wrapped in cloth on a pedestrian pier and didn't know he was holding a gun until it fired. The shot ricocheted off the concrete pier about 12 feet from Garcia Zarate, then flew another 78 feet to hit Steinle in the back.
The prosecution is arguing Garcia Zarate intended to fire the fatal shot on a crowded pier.
The case drew national attention when conservative politicians -- including then-candidate Donald Trump -- seized on it to push a hard-line stance on immigration enforcement and criticize so-called sanctuary cities. Garcia Zarate is a Mexican citizen with a history of deportations and illegal re-entry into the U.S. He was released in San Francisco two months before Steinle's death. The bullet's ricochet is rarely, if ever, raised in the national debate.
But it's a crucial point in the San Francisco murder trial.