Conviction in the murder of Jamiel Shaw

An undocumented immigrant and known gang member was convicted on Wednesday in the murder of 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw Jr.

Pedro Espinoza, 23, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the March 2, 2008 shooting of Shaw, a football star at Los Angeles High School. The jury deliberated for less than four hours before reaching its verdict. It found special circumstances in the killing, which makes Espinoza eligible for the death penalty. On May 15th, the same jury will begin considering whether Espinoza should be put to death or sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“It restores your faith in the justice system” said Jamiel Shaw Sr. outside the court room after the verdict was announced.

Shaw was shot twice near his home in Arlington Heights. Prosecutors allege that Espinoza thought Shaw was a member of the rival Bloods gang because he was carrying a red Spider-Man backpack. At the time of the shooting, Espinoza had just been released from jail and was living in the United States illegally.

The murder of their son turned the Shaw family into anti-immigration activists. They have a website in their campaign for Jamiel’s Law that would allow police to arrest undocumented immigrant gang members and turn them over to federal authorities.

Jury selection begins in trial of slain South LA teen

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Pedro Espinoza sat silently in court wearing a brown suit, glasses, and sporting a fresh crew-cut. He kept his eyes focused on his lawyers, asking them questions periodically. Directly behind him in the first row, sat the Shaw family. While the defense questioned potential jurors, Jamiel Shaw Sr. watched Espinoza, the man he believes gunned down his son. 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw Jr. was shot March 2, 2008 while he was just three doors away from home.

image“He was a good kid, never been in any trouble, never been arrested, never been suspended from school,” said Shaw.

Espinoza is a member of the 18th Street gang and an undocumented immigrant. He had been released from county jail on gun charges just one day before Shaw was shot. Twenty-three year-old Espinoza now faces the death penalty.

“Even though in California, what’s the odds of having the death penalty?”said Shaw.

The Shaw family has spent the four years between the arrest and the trial trying to get “Jamiel’s Law” on the city ballot. The law would allow police to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants if they have been identified as known gang members. Shaw Sr. says that if this had been in place four years ago, his son might still be alive.

“These are the ones that they need to protect us from. Criminals, killers, murderers, rapists. And they’re not doing it, because if they did, they would have had him because he’s three gun charges in a row, and you didn’t know he was in the country illegally?” said Shaw.

Opponents of Jamiel’s Law argue it could lead to racial profiling. The Jamiel’s Law petition failed to get the signatures needed in 2008 to be placed on the ballot. Shaw Sr. says they will continue to try to make Jamiel’s Law a reality as a way to honor the son who was taken from them too soon.

“MVP three years in a row, all city, getting recruited from Stanford, Rutgers, and a lot of small schools. The kind of kid you’d think would make it. You think he would have made it, but he didn’t of course,” said Shaw.

The juror pool will be cut down to 12 jurors and 6 alternates in the next few days. The trial is expected to take between two and half and four weeks.