A Los Angeles Superior Court judge agreed with a jury's recommendation that a gang member convicted in the execution-style slaying of standout high school football player Jamiel Shaw receive the death penalty.
After emotional testimony from Shaw's family in a Los Angeles courtroom on Friday, Judge Ronald Rose issued the sentence to Pedro Espinoza, a 23-year-old gang member.
A jury in May recommended death for Espinoza, who was convicted of first-degree murder for what prosecutors said was the "cold-blooded, calculated execution" of Shaw outside the teen's Arlington Heights home on March 2, 2008.
Four days before voters are expected to decide whether to abolish the death penalty, Shaw’s family stood in solidarity at the courthouse, voicing support for the maximum penalty currently allowed by law.
"If you murdered somebody, you should be murdered too," said Jamiel Shaw Sr., who said he was voting against Prop. 34 on Nov. 6 which would abolish California’s death penalty. “My son got the death penalty, but we can't give it to them? Because it hurts? They don't think it didn't hurt my son?"
When asked if she views the sentencing as the end of the ordeal, Jamiel Shaw’s mother, Anita said, “It better be. Enough is enough."
Jamiel Shaw’s aunt, Althea, pushed for the death sentence.
"It’s not like we'll go ‘Whoo!’ if he gets he gets the death penalty,” she said. “We just feel that it's appropriate for the way Jamiel was murdered."
Prosecutors say Espinoza attacked Shaw, who was 17, because he was black. Prosecutors also said Espinoza mistook him for a gang rival based on the red Spider-Man backpack Shaw was wearing. Shaw's family wore red at the courthouse in support.
Shaw was an honor's student at Los Angeles High School. He was was not in a gang. Rutgers and Stanford were among the universities recruiting him.
During the court hearing on Friday, Judge Ronald Rose denied Espinoza's motions for a new trial and a new attorney, saying he had ineffective counsel and he didn't get a fair trial.
During the sentencing phase of the trial, an Espinoza attorney M. David Houchin, said he was “not trying in any way to excuse Pedro Espinoza” but asked jurors to recommend a life prison sentence for his client, according to City News Service.
“My plea for Mr. Espinoza's life is not a plea for leniency,” Houchin said, arguing that the death penalty “should be meted out to the worst in our society.”
Shaw's parents have campaigned for a law that would enable police to arrest undocumented immigrant gang members and them turn in to federal authorities.
Espinoza was living in the United States illegally and had been released from jail on a conviction for brandishing a weapon before the Shaw slaying.
The judge could sentence Espinoza to either death or life in prison without parole. The decision comes four days before California voters decide whether to abolish the death penalty.