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Jurors to weigh death penalty for Jamiel Shaw II's killer

May 15, 2012 |  8:34 am

Pedro Espinoza

Jurors who found a gang member guilty of killing Los Angeles High School football star Jamiel Shaw II are to return to court Tuesday to determine if Pedro Espinoza should be put to death.

Espinoza, now 23, was accused of gunning down Shaw in March 2008 because he was wearing a red Spider-Man backpack. Jurors deliberated for barely half a day last Wednesday before returning a guilty verdict.

They found to be true allegations that Espinoza committed the crime in association with a gang and that he personally discharged a firearm, circumstances that made the death penalty an option.

Prosecutors had argued that Espinoza shot the 17-year-old in the belief that he was a Bloods gang member because he was a black man wearing a red backpack. Shaw was shot near his Arlington Heights home as he walked back from a friend's house after a day of shopping at the mall.

Espinoza, who had been released from custody just 28 hours earlier, asked Shaw, “Where are you from?” before shooting into his abdomen, then again into his head in an execution-like manner, prosecutors contended.

Driving away from the scene, he boasted to a fellow 18th Street gang member, “I'm a killer,” according to testimony.

Shaw's slaying touched off an outcry over the Los Angeles Police Department's practices regarding arrestees who are illegal immigrants, because Espinoza was in the U.S. illegally.

After the verdict, Shaw's family said they wanted Espinoza to be executed.

“We want the death penalty bad. We want to set a precedent,” said the victim's father, Jamiel Shaw Sr.

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-- Victoria Kim and Kim Christensen

Photo: Pedro Espinoza, left, reacts after a jury found him guilty May 9 of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of high-school football player Jamiel Shaw II. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times.

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