A Los Angeles jury has convicted gang member Pedro Espinoza in the murder of Jamiel Shaw, a Los Angeles High School football star who was killed in 2008. The decision came less than four hours after the jury began deliberations.
Espinoza was declared guilty of shooting 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw Jr. twice as he was talking on the phone to his girlfriend while walking home from a friend's house. The jury also found the allegation that Espinoza shot Shaw at the behest of a street gang to be true.
As the verdict was read, Espinoza looked up and then over at jurors a couple of times. His family sat quietly and silently.
Closing arguments were presented Tuesday. Prosecutors maintain that Espinoza, a member of the Alsace St. clique of the 18th Street gang and an illegal immigrant, singled out Jamiel Shaw as a potential gang enemy because he was a black kid wearing a red Spiderman backpack.
Prosecutors showed pictures of a tattoo Espinoza has behind his ear that says "BK" or as "Blood Killer." They are seeking the death penalty.
"Jamiel was about 40 steps from home," Deputy District Attorney Robert Grace told jurors Tuesday in his rebuttal. "We are just asking you guys to finally let him go home."
But Espinoza’s defense attorney told jurors in his closing argument that the case against his client was weak. Defense attorney Csaba Palfi questioned the strength of witness testimony. A woman who was at the scene of the crime only described the suspect as a Latino man but did not directly identify Espinoza.
"Are you comfortable enough with the state of the evidence, with the witnesses they provided," Palfi told jurors. He asked the jury to put aside biases toward gang members and said the burden is on the prosecutors to prove that Espinoza is the man who shot and killed Shaw.
More information on the verdict coming soon.