The trial of five-time deportee, seven-time convicted felon Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez for the murder of young San Francisco resident Kate Steinle has been delayed until after the 2016 presidential election.
On Thursday, a judge set December 2 as the date to assign the case for trial, according to the East Bay Times. The actual start of the trial might only happen in 2017. Prosecutor Diane Garcia said Thursday that she has cases that have dragged on for four years.
Steinle was walking along San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father on July 1, 2015 when a shot in the back left her dead. Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez was arrested shortly thereafter. He gave a jailhouse confession to the crime in the aftermath. His lawyers argue that the shot with the gun, which they say he found, was an accident.
Steinle’s death gained national attention and shed light on other families that have lost loved ones to the actions of foreign nationals illegally present in the United States of America. Presidential candidate Donald Trump highlighted these families, giving them the podium to tell their stories in a July 10, 2015 press conference that followed a private meeting between Trump and the families.
The firearm Lopez-Sanchez used had been stolen from a federal agent with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management just days before. Lopez Sanchez has claimed that he found the gun wrapped up beneath a bench that he came to sit on one day.
Lopez-Sanchez knew he was safe from deportation in the sanctuary city of San Francisco, according to a local ABC 7 news interview he participated in within a week of Steinle’s death.
The Steinle family filed a lawsuit in May against the city of San Francisco, the former Sheriff and other agencies for allowing Lopez Sanchez to “to go free and obtain the gun that killed her.” The lawsuit centers around the city’s sanctuary city policy, and a memo from now former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi that went even further in blocking much communication between law enforcement and immigration officials. Two-and-a-half weeks after the killing of Steinle, San Francisco Sheriff’s deputies cited the memo, as they blamed Mirkarimi for hindering their ability to contact federal immigration authorities about Lopez Sanchez.
Lopez Sanchez had been detained at the federal Bureau of Prisons in Victorville, California and was scheduled for release. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department received alerts of the impending release. According to a Sheriff’s department letter obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, the department had asked that Lopez Sanchez be held and when he would be “ready for our pickup.”
He was transferred on March 26 to the SF Sheriff’s Department on a 20-year-old bench warrant for possession-for-sale of marijuana.
Immigration officials were not informed of the transfer to San Francisco County custody until after it occurred. ICE did issue a detention request for Lopez Sanchez. That request only asks to be notified of a detainee’s impending release, not for an extended detention time. San Francisco is a sanctuary city, and coupled with Sheriff’s department policies, such requests are specifically denied.
Mirkarimi tried to blame ICE for the transfer in the days after Steinle’s death. As he claimed in an interview with local public radio station KQED, “we don’t even prosecute marijuana in San Francisco basically,” according to the Chronicle.
Just one day after Lopez Sanchez arrived in San Francisco, a court dismissed the charges against him. He was released from custody in San Francisco on April 15. Lopez Sanchez has admitted to firing the shot that, just two-and-a-half months after his release, killed Steinle.