Southern California breaking news and trends

Pedro Espinoza sentenced to death in Jamiel Shaw Jr. murder

Al Seib/AP

Pedro Espinoza in court in 2008, where he pleaded not guilty to having shot Jamiel Shaw, Jr., a Los Angeles high school football star.

L.A. Superior Court Judge Ronald Rose sentenced Pedro Espinoza to death Friday afternoon in the killing of Los Angeles High School football standout Jamiel Shaw Jr. in March 2008. The sentence brings at least a temporary end to a case that raised issues of immigration policy, jail oversight and gang violence in L.A.

"I knew," Jamiel Shaw Sr. said about the verdict. "The judge was there; he saw the coroner's photos. What else could he do?"

Shaw's son and namesake was walking home when Espinoza — who was in the neighborhood to visit a friend — approached him and shot him twice, once in the abdomen and again in the head. Prosecutors said Espinoza, a member of the 18th Street gang, pegged Shaw as a rival gang member because he was wearing a red, Spider-Man backpack. 

Members of Shaw's family spoke during the court hearing. His mother, Anita Shaw, was serving her second tour as a U.S. Army sergeant in Iraq when she recieved news of her son's death.

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Jamiel Shaw's family praised the jury's recommendation of death for their son's killer

Al Seib/AP

Pedro Espinoza in court in 2008, where he pleaded not guilty to having shot Jamiel Shaw, Jr., a Los Angeles high school football star.

A jury Wednesday recommended that Pedro Espinoza, a member of the 18th Street Gang, be sentenced to death for killing high school football stand-out Jamiel Shaw Jr. in 2008. 

Shaw's family thoroughly agreed with the jury. The victim's father, Jamiel Shaw Sr., said the death penalty was the best way to deter future murders. Speaking before a group of reporters, Shaw had a message for his son. "We did it. your life wasn't in vain," he said. "Under the circumstances, this is the best that we could do. The conviction with the death penalty."

With executions stalled in California since 2006, pending the outcome of federal and state lawsuits, Shaw was asked if it bothered him that Espinoza's penalty, if upheld, might be carried out after his own lifetime.

"Of course I want to see it," Shaw said, adding that he tells Jamiel's brother to never forget what happened.

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