IMMIGRATION

Legal experts say San Francisco immigrant suspect has difficult task combatting murder charge

FILE - In this July 7, 2015 file photo, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, right, is lead into the courtroom by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, left, and Assistant District Attorney Diana Garciaor, center, for his arraignment at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco. Even if the suspect at the center of a national immigration debate accidentally fired the shot that killed Kate Steinle on San Francisco's Pier 14, on July 1, it may not help his case. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool, File)

FILE - In this July 7, 2015 file photo, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, right, is lead into the courtroom by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, left, and Assistant District Attorney Diana Garciaor, center, for his arraignment at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco. Even if the suspect at the center of a national immigration debate accidentally fired the shot that killed Kate Steinle on San Francisco's Pier 14, on July 1, it may not help his case. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool, File)  (The Associated Press)

Even if the murder suspect at the center of a national immigration debate accidentally fired the shot that killed a young woman on San Francisco's Pier 14, that may not help his case.

A jury can still conclude that simply handling a semi-automatic pistol in a crowded tourist area was so reckless that he's guilty of second-degree murder rather than a less severe manslaughter conviction, legal experts said.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has pleaded not guilty to murder for the July 1 shooting death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle (STINE-lee).

Lopez-Sanchez is in the country illegally and has been deported five times previously.

His release from jail in April sparked intense debate over a San Francisco sanctuary law to ignore detention requests from the federal government, a policy many other cities and counties have also adopted.