At long last, the Kate Steinle murder trial begins tomorrow, Friday. Here's a quick refresher:
32-year-old Kathryn "Kate" Steinle of San Francisco was shot and killed on July 1, 2016 while strolling along Pier 14 with her parents. 54-year-old Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has been charged with her murder. He apparently used a gun that he found underneath a public bench, which had been stolen days before from a Bureau of Land Management officer's car. And he's an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who had previously been deported and had been transferred to SF to face drug charges, which were dismissed.
The murder was soon sucked into the vortex of the national news cycle and has been used by some on the right as an argument against San Francisco's sanctuary city policy. Lopez-Sanchez, it turned out, had been released from San Francisco County jail a few months before the murder and in accordance with the city's policy, was not turned over to immigration officials for deportation. His crime is also the impetus of the new "Kate's Law," which expands sentences for people who try to get back into the United States after they've been deported. "Kate's Law" was passed by the House in recent weeks. It still needs approval from the Senate and the Steinle family wants no part of it.
The San Francisco Examiner reports that Lopez-Sanchez, who has pleaded not guilty, will make his first appearance in his trial proceedings on Friday before Judge Garrett Wong in Department 22 of San Francisco Superior Court. His attorney is former San Francisco Supervisor and candidate for Mayor Matt Gonzalez.
On July 3, The San Francisco Chronicle published an op-ed by Gonzalez, which read in part:
For those who want to whip up fear of immigrants, it is politically expedient to cast Lopez Sanchez as dangerous. But the truth is he's never previously been charged with a crime of violence. He is a simple man with a second-grade education who has survived many hardships. He came to the U.S. repeatedly because extreme poverty is the norm in many parts of Mexico. He risked going to jail so that he could perform a menial job that could feed him. Each time, he came to the U.S. because American employers openly encourage illegal immigration to fill the jobs U.S. citizens don't want.
Lopez-Sanchez claims that the gun went off accidentally and Gonzalez is expected to argue that the particular model of gun used is notorious for having a hair trigger. Also Lopez-Sanchez says he never intended to shoot Steinle, who was shot with one bullet to the back which penetrated her heart and killed her, and Gonzalez will argue that ballistic evidence shows the bullet ricocheted before hitting her.
Obviously this murder trial will be a big deal in local and national news for weeks or months to come. We'll keep you updated on how it plays out.