Jamiel Shaw’s best friend is first witness in Espinoza murder trial
By Alex Alonso
Streetgangs.com Staff Writer
May 2, 2012 | 11:55 p.m. PST
On Monday, opening statements in the murder trial of Pedro Espinoza began. Espinoza is on trial for the 2008 killing of Jamiel Shaw Jr., who was a standout football star at Los Angeles High School. On March 2, while walking home from his best friend’s house in the Washington Heights area of Los Angeles, Shaw was gunned down on the 2100 block of 5th Avenue near his home.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Grace told the jury during opening statements that Espinoza shot and killed Shaw while he was just feet away from his home and that it was Shaw’s red Spider-man backpack that compelled Espinoza to shoot him. According to Grace, the back-pack suggested to Espinoza that Shaw was a possible enemy to his gang, 18th Street.
Espinoza, 18 at the time, is a member of the 18th Street gang from the Adams-Hauser section of Los Angeles, and they are rivals to the Bloods in the neighborhood where Shaw lived. Grace told the jury that Shaw was not associated with any gangs.
Defense attorney Csaba Palfi (pronounced /cha-buh/) in opening statements suggested that Espinoza did not kill Shaw. Palfi made reference to Espinoza’s previous arrest for brandishing a weapon against Samuel Duran, and told the jury that Espinoza challenged Durant to a physical fight and that on the day of the killing, Espinoza reported to the LAPD to register as a gang member.
Palfi also stated that Shaw wanted to change his shirt at his best friend’s house before he left to go home. He also told the jury that there is no doubt that Espinoza is a member of the gang and that, “the issue is not if he is in a gang, but if he is responsible for these crimes.”
First Witness Marc Asher
Deputy District Attorney, Allyson Ostrowski called the first witness, Marc Asher, who was Shaw’s best friend and attended Los Angeles High School with him. Asher met Shaw in the 9th grade and had been friends with him for 2½ years. Ostrowski asked Asher to explain that last day with Shaw which started at noon when they took a bus to the Beverly Center shopping mall from Asher’s apartment on 3rd Avenue, just blocks from Shaw’s home. Asher testified that they spent 5 to 6 hours at the mall, and that Shaw’s purchasing card did not work when they attempted to purchase cloths.
Marc Asher during 2008 news interview.
The two went to eat at Chipotle then they got on the bus at La Cienaga and Beverly Blvd to return back to the neighborhood. They first stopped at Asher’s grandmother’s home who also lived on 3rd Ave and then went to his mother’s home. Asher told the jury that he offered cloths to Shaw since he was not able to purchase any at the mall but that he didn’t end up taking any. Shaw eventually left Asher’s place after 20 minutes and walked home. Asher walked with him to the 4th Avenue bridge that connects Asher’s neighborhood to Shaw’s neighborhood, which is separated by the Santa Monica Freeway. Shaw continued to walk home and Asher turned back and went home. That was the last time Asher saw Shaw alive.
Defense attorney Palfi asked Asher if Shaw came to his grandmother’s house and later his house so that he can change his shirt before he went home. Asher quickly denied that and said, “No, I was offering him some cloths.” Asher was asked if Shaw was wearing a red belt, and he emphatically said no and he stated that he never saw Shaw wear a red belt.
When defense attorney asked Asher to tell the jury what Shaw was wearing that day, he could not remember. Asher was not able to answer questions regarding Shaw’s shoes, pants or any of his clothing that day.
Palfi also asked Asher if he had ever seen Shaw with a gun before, either in person or in photos. He replied no, and then he was asked if he had seen his website, most likely referring to Shaw’s Myspace page he had in 2008. Prosecutor Ostrowski objected to this particular question citing 402, but Judge Ronald Rose overruled, and Asher replied that he did not see Shaw’s website. Palfi asked if he was best friends with Shaw and Asher reiterated that he was indeed best friends with Shaw who he referred to as Jas during his testimony.
When Palfi asked if Asher lived in an area claimed by gangs, prosecutor Ostrowsky objected, but Judge Rose overruled the objection, so when Palfi repeated the question, Asher did not answer and looked at the prosecutor, not sure what to say. Ostrowski told Asher he could answer, and then Palfi asked Asher if he was taking his cue from the prosecutor and he replied yes. By this time, Asher was showing signs of discomfort appearing agitated at some of the questions and demonstrating some attitude. He eventually told the jury that his neighborhood was claimed by the Black P Stone Bloods, but Asher was most likely confused about answering the gang question because there was an objection.
Gang issues will continue to be presented by various witnesses throughout this trial because the defense is going to argue that Shaw exchanged words with his killer right before he was shot, and that some of those words may have been gang-related.
Asher also told the jury that he did not know Juan Torres, Shaw’s neighbor that was also a friend of Shaw for years. Asher testified that he did not recognize Torres’ home in a photo and that he had never heard of Torres’ name nor ever been to his apartment.
Responding LAPD Officer Brian Churchill, Shaw’s girlfriend Chrystale Miles and the only eye witness to the crime, Tiffany Johnson also testified on day one of trial testimony.
Alex Alonso is an author, film maker, founder of Streetgangs.com, and a criminal trial consultant. He is a contributing author in the book Black Los Angeles: American Dreams Racial Realities (New York University Press). He can be reached via email, toll free at 800-249-1324 or on Twitter.
Tags: 18th street, 5th Avenue, Alcase Click, alex alonso, Allyson Ostroski, Allyson Ostrowski, ALS, black p stone, bloods, Bobby Grace, gangs, jamiel shaw, Los Angeles, Marc Asher, pedro espinoza, robert grace, Rollin 20s Bloods