In one of the most bizarre, tragic, and controversial stories in California this year, the infamous “Pier 14″ murder has sparked much debate on immigration, felony laws, and San Francisco’s status as a ‘sanctuary city.’ At the end of June, a woman named Kathryn Steel was strolling around Pier 14 when she was gunned down by Francisco Sanchez in what is thought to be a “random” murder. She was shot by Sanchez when he saw her, and the two do not seem to have any connection.
Sanchez is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. He has a sordid legal history with seven felony convictions in the U.S. (four involving narcotics) and has been deported five times, most recently in 2009 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) officials. He has stated in the interview that he was high on pills when he shot Steel with a stolen gun and had no idea what he was doing. He has been taken into custody and charged with murder.
ICE turned Sanchez over to San Francisco PD back in March on an outstanding drug warrant, requesting to be notified before his release so arrangements could be made to take custody. However, San Francisco PD had dropped the drug charges against him because he had not had violent crime convictions in recent years. The San Francisco PD’s actions have been criticized and thrown into a national debate on immigration policy.
Murder in California (CA Penal Code 187)
The legal definition of murder, according to California Penal Code 187(a), is “the unlawful killing of a human being or a fetus with malice aforethought.” What distinguishes murder from (unintentional) manslaughter in California law is the fact that malice (malicious intent) is necessarily involved in a murder.
Under the California Penal Code, malice may be express or implied. Express malice means that you specifically intended to kill the victim. It is implied when:
- The killing resulted from an intentional act;
- The natural consequences of the act are dangerous to human life; and
- The act was deliberately performed with knowledge of the danger to, and with conscious disregard for, human life.
There are various murder charges one may be charged with, including 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, Capital murder (which is 1st degree murder with special circumstances), and felony-murder.
The penalties for murder depends on the type of murder you are charged with, but conviction for 1st degree murder in California can lead to 25 years in prison to life. Additionally, other punishments include a strike pursuant to the 3 strikes law, victim restitution, and a fine of up to $10,000. If you are a non-U.S. Citizen, certain misdemeanors, and felony or murder charges gives ICE the right to deport you.