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article imageS.F. waterfront slaying suspect claims 2015 killing was accident

By Nathan Salant     Jan 30, 2016 in Crime
San Francisco - The suspect in what seems to have been a random slaying on the San Francisco waterfront has asked for the most serious charge against him — second-degree murder — to be dismissed.
The attorney for Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez says the 2015 slaying of Katie Steinle was obviously a mistake that does not support such a serious charge.
A hearing scheduled for Friday in San Francisco Superior Court was delayed until March 24 to give Judge Brendan Conroy more time to consider the dismissal issue, according to the Associated Press.
Lopez-Sanchez faces second-degree murder and less-serious charges in the death of Steinle, who was shot in the back July 1 while walking with her father and a family friend on Pier 14, a public pier just north of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
The single shot apparently came from a gun that Francisco-Lopez says he found on a bench and fired inadvertently.
The weapon had been reported stolen one month in San Francisco from a car being driven by a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger.
Ballistic experts testified in September that the shot had ricocheted off the pier's concrete surface before striking Steinle, making it highly unlikely that it had been planned.
"A champion marksman could not accurately hit a target after first striking a concrete surface," Lopez-Sanchez's attorney, former San Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, told the AP.
But prosecutors contend the second-degree murder charge was appropriate, and say they could refile charges if the case against Lopez-Sanchez gets dismissed.
Because Lopez-Sanchez was in the United States illegally, the case became a national issue in the debate over the country's immigration laws.
Lopez-Sanchez had been deported to his native Mexico five times but returned to the U.S. illegally each time.
The shooting has even been cited by Republic Party presidential candidate Donald Trump in his campaign for a border fence and tighter immigration controls.
Lopez-Sanchez was released from jail in San Francisco despite a request from federal immigration authorities to hold him for possible deportation.
San Francisco considers itself a "sanctuary city" that does not cooperate with federal immigration officials.
If convicted, Lopez-Sanchez faces as long as life in prison if guilty of murder and 19 years if manslaughter.
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