Tuesday, November 6, 2012
A Hispanic gang member who gunned down a black Los Angeles High School football standout near his Arlington Heights home because he was carrying a red Spider-Man backpack has been sentenced to death
Jurors recommended in May 2012 that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald H. Rose impose the death sentence on Pedro Espinoza, 23, who was convicted of first-degree murder for the March 2, 2008, shooting death of Jamiel Shaw Jr., 17. Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation that the murder was carried out to further the activities of a criminal street gang. Prosecutors alleged that Espinoza shot Shaw to improve his status in the gang. In rejecting a defense request for a reduced sentence, Superior Court Judge Ronald Rose said that Espinoza murdered a defenseless victim in cold blood and bragged about it. Shaw, who was unarmed and had no gang ties, was executed as he lay "defenseless and incapacitated on the ground ... in front of the family home," Rose said. The judge described the victim as "a good, decent teenage boy." Shaw was shot once in the head and once in the abdomen. The teenager, who had a collection of Spider-Man items in his bedroom, had been walking home carrying a Spider-Man backpack that made Espinoza mistakenly perceive him as a gang rival, according to prosecutors. Like all death penalty proceedings, the Espinoza case is subject to automatic appeal to the California Supreme Court. During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Allyson Ostrowski told jurors that Espinoza, a Latino, "chose to execute a 17-year-old for the color of his skin and the color of his backpack," calling the slaying of Shaw, who was black, a "cold-blooded, calculated execution."