Jury selection began Monday in the trial of the man accused of fatally shooting a 32-year-old woman on a San Francisco pier, which touched off a national immigration debate.
Court records show that lawyers began summoning the first of 1,000 potential jurors Monday to the San Francisco courthouse to fill out questionnaires. Possible jurors are being asked if they can sit through a lengthy trial or have moral qualms about the case.
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate said he accidentally fired the shot that killed Kate Steinle while she was walking with her father in July 2015. Garcia Zarate, 54, had been recently released from the San Francisco Jail after the district attorney dropped a minor marijuana charge. Zarate was released despite a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain him for deportation proceedings. He had previously been deported five times.
The San Francisco sheriff, citing the city's policy of limited cooperation with federal immigration officials, ignored the ICE request.
Monday's questionnaire is only the first step, and the process is expected to take about two weeks, after which lawyers will then start questioning potential jurors about their views on immigration and other issues in an effort to seat an impartial jury. That portion is also expected to last about two weeks.
President Donald Trump referred to Steinle's death several times while campaigning as a reason to toughen immigration policies in the country and the case has frequently been invoked as part of the immigration debate. Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, several of which have filed lawsuits to prevent that.