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Kate Steinle's Parents Can't Sue Sanctuary City

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Kate Steinle was a victim of murder and circumstance.

She was walking near Pier 41 in San Francisco when an undocumented alien with a criminal record shot and killed her. President Trump tweeted it out in his campaign against sanctuary cities.

In Steinle v. City & County of San Francisco, Steinle's parents sued the sheriff for negligently releasing the man before he killed their daughter. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said they didn't have a case.

'Tragic and Unnecessary'

Juan Lopez-Sanchez, who had been deported five times, was acquitted of murder charges in the case. However, he was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Trump tweeted it was "a disgraceful verdict." He has also cited the case when criticizing sanctuary cities.

Judge Mark J. Bennett, writing for the Ninth Circuit, said it was a "tragic and unnecessary death." He suggested it underscores an argument against the sheriff's policy decision not to inform federal authorities when illegal immigrants are released from custody.

"But that policy argument can be acted upon only by California's state and municipal political branches of government, or perhaps by Congress -- but not by federal judges applying California law as determined by the California Supreme Court," he wrote.

Seven Felonies

Steinle, 32, was walking with her father near Fisherman's Wharf when she was killed in 2015. At the criminal trial, the defense argued it was an accident.

However, Lopez-Sanchez had been convicted of at least seven felonies before he was released by the sheriff's department. On the day of the shooting, he was carrying a stolen gun that discharged one fatal shot.

Immigration officials said they could have deported him if the sheriff had notified them he was about to be released. The trial court dismissed her parents' case on immunity grounds, and the appeals court affirmed.

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