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Gang member should be executed for killing high school football star, jury says

Pedro Espinoza reacts after the jury announce a guilty verdict on May 9, 2012.

A 23-year-old gang member who shot and killed a high school football star he mistook for a rival gangster should be sentenced to death, a Los Angeles jury decided Wednesday.

The panel returned the verdict after about a week of testimony in the penalty phase of the trial, in which jurors were asked to determine what punishment Pedro Espinoza should receive for the 2008 shooting death of 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw II.

He was convicted earlier this month of first-degree murder, which prosecutors said was an execution-style killing because Espinoza concluded from Shaw’s skin color and red backpack that the teenager was a Bloods gang member.

Jurors found true allegations that he acted on behalf of a gang and that he used a firearm, making him eligible for the death penalty.

Shaw was three doors away from arriving at his Arlington Heights home, talking on his cellphone to his girlfriend, when his father heard gunshots. Espinoza shot him once in the abdomen then walked around his body before firing a second shot into the teenager’s head, prosecutors alleged.

Shaw’s father said after Espinoza’s guilty verdict that the family wants him to receive the death penalty to “set a precedent.”

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-- Victoria Kim

Photo: Pedro Espinoza reacts after the jury announces a guilty verdict May 9, 2012. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Getty Images

 
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