DA goes for death penalty for alleged killer of Jamiel Shaw

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The L.A. County district attorney’s office has announced that it will seek the death penalty for Pedro Espinoza. He’s the 20-year-old gang member accused of killing L.A. High School football star Jamiel Shaw. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall has more.

The district attorney’s Special Circumstance Committee decides whether to pursue capital punishment in a murder case. It took almost a year-and-a-half to decide this case has a special circumstance that warrants the death penalty.

Investigators say 20-year-old Pedro Espinoza is a “documented member” of the 18th Street gang, one of L.A.’s largest. Some of its factions are in a violent feud with the Bloods, one of L.A.’s long-standing black gangs.

Investigators say 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw wasn’t in a gang, but as he walked home, Espinoza leaned out a car and asked him, “Where you from?” That’s a gang challenge – one followed by gunfire.

Prosecutors can argue that Espinoza helped “further the activities” of the 18th Street gang by killing any young black man. That counts as a special circumstance, and it makes this a death penalty case. Espinoza’s attorney wants prosecutors to reconsider that decision.