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The Death of Kate Steinle: Murder Trial Linked to Immigration Debate Delayed until after Election

MurderThe murder trial of the man accused of killing Kathryn “Kate” Steinle – whose 2015 shooting on a San Francisco waterfront ignited a furious national debate over undocumented immigration and sanctuary city policies – will not go to trial until next year, long after the presidential election.

The Delayed Trial of Kate Steinle’s Shooting

On August 11, a court judge set December 2, 2016 as the date to assign the case for trial against Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a five-time deportee and seven-time convicted felon. The actual start of the trial, however, might only happen in 2017.

Steinle was shot and killed while walking with her father along the San Francisco pier. She was struck by a bullet from a gun fired by Lopez-Sanchez. Days before the incident, Lopez-Sanchez was released from a San Francisco jail in spite of federal authorities wanting him to be returned to their custody.

The gun was stolen days earlier from a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger. Matt Gonzalez, Lopez-Sanchez’s public defender, argued that Lopez-Sanchez found the gun and that the shooting was an accident. Gonzalez claimed the bullet struck the deck and ricocheted, hitting Steinle in the back.

Prosecutor Diane Garcia argued that Lopez-Sanchez intended to kill Steinle, saying that he fired a skip shot. The ballistics expert who testified at Lopez-Sanchez’s preliminary hearing last year seemed to support the defense’s claims. The expert stated that a skip shot would be nearly impossible because the fired bullet could not have followed a straight path after hitting the pier.

The Debate on Immigration and Sanctuary City Policies

Earlier this year, the family of Kate Steinle filed a wrongful death lawsuit against then-San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and other agencies, blaming them for her death because they allowed Lopez-Sanchez to “to go free and obtain the gun that killed her.”

Last week, the Steinle family also filed a court brief, urging a magistrate judge not to dismiss their wrongful death lawsuit. They argued that Mirkarimi and other San Francisco officials should have known that they were releasing “yet another undocumented felon, with a history of erratic and criminal behavior.”

The death of Kate Steinle gained national attention and shed light on other families who lost loved ones due to the actions of foreign nationals unlawfully present in the U.S. These families include those of Sabine Durden, Lupe Moreno, Don Rosenberg, Jamiel Shaw Jr., and Brenda Sparks.

Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump has used the incident to criticize Central American immigrants and the existence of sanctuary cities. In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump said, “My opponent wants sanctuary cities. But where was sanctuary for Kate Steinle?”

If you or someone you know would like legal counsel regarding sanctuary cities or any other immigration issue, contact Lyttle Law Firm today. You may visit our website or call our offices at 512-215-5225.