L.A. County sheriff can't be sued for releasing illegal immigrant accused of killing football star, judge rules
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit by the parents of a high school football star who had sued the Sheriff’s Department for releasing from jail an illegal immigrant suspected of killing their son.
'The parents of Jamiel Shaw II, a running back who was recruited by Stanford and Rutgers universities before he was gunned down in 2008, had accused the sheriff of negligence, wrongful death and civil rights violations for letting Pedro Espinoza out onto the streets instead of turning him over to immigration authorities.
Espinoza, a 21-year-old who prosecutors say was a member of the 18th Street gang in the United States illegally, had been released from jail a day before the shooting after serving time for an earlier offense. His criminal case, in which he faces the death penalty, remains pending.
Shaw’s family alleged in their suit that because of an agreement allowing local agencies to enforce federal immigration law, the Sheriff’s Department was liable for Shaw’s death.
At the time of the suit’s filing, immigration law experts said the argument that a sheriff or warden could be held liable for releasing an illegal immigrant who goes on to commit a crime was unprecedented.
In dismissing the suit Wednesday, Judge Charles F. Palmer found that the federal-local partnership did not mean the sheriff had a “mandatory duty” to transfer illegal immigrants after they completed their sentences.
-- Victoria Kim
Photo: Program from memorial for Shaw. Credit: Los Angeles Times