SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jury selection is scheduled to start in a long-awaited triple murder trial of an illegal immigrant accused of fatally shooting a man and his two sons in traffic nearly four years ago.
Edwin Ramos is suspected of opening fire on Tony Bologna, 48, and two of his sons, Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, who were shot in their car at an intersection in the city's Excelsior district while driving home from a picnic on June 22, 2008.
A third son inside the car wasn't injured.
Ramos was a member of the MS-13 street gang and mistook one of the sons for a gang rival, prosecutors said.
Ramos has pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder, claiming he was the getaway driver and another man in his car was the gunman. That passenger, another suspected MS-13 member, has not been found.
Jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday and take a few weeks. If convicted, Ramos could face life in prison without parole.
The shootings sparked public outrage over San Francisco's sanctuary city policy for illegal immigrants. Under a loophole, juveniles charged with felonies were not turned over for deportation, which allowed Ramos to stay in the U.S. despite his criminal record.
A state appeals court ruled last year that San Francisco was not legally liable for the deaths because of its sanctuary policy.
Bologna's widow and daughter argued that the city was responsible for the shootings because it failed to turn Ramos over to federal immigration authorities after his prior brushes with the law.
Ramos was previously arrested for assault in October 2003 and attempted purse-snatching in 2004 and was sent to juvenile shelters. Court documents don't reveal if police or juvenile courts knew that Ramos had entered the country illegally.
Under the juvenile authorities' interpretation of the sanctuary policy, they would not have turned him over to immigration authorities.
The murders led to a change in the policy. In July 2008, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered city employees to report suspected underage illegal immigrants to the federal government after a felony arrest.
City supervisors then passed an ordinance that requires a youth to be found guilty before being reported, but the mayor refused to implement it, saying it violates federal law.