Defense in Espinoza murder trial rests without calling a witness
By Alex A. Alonso
Streetgangs.com Staff Writer
May 7, 2012 | 6:47 p.m.
Updated: May 8 | 11:51 a.m.
Correction: The defense did call one witness, LAPD officer Javier Hernandez on May 3, 2012.
LOS ANGELES — Monday morning defense attorney Csaba Palfi was ready to present his defense in the murder trial of Pedro Espinoza who is accused of murdering Los Angeles High School football player Jamiel Shaw Jr.,17, in 2008. Palfi was scheduled to present three witnesses, and even though subpoenas were served, none of the witnesses showed up.
One of the witnesses that the court was waiting for on Monday morning was Los Angeles County Probation Officer Barbara Parker that Espinoza, an 18th Street gang member, reported to on March 3, 2008, one day after the murder of Shaw. Defense attorney Palfi wanted to inform the jury that Espinoza reported to Officer Parker as he was scheduled to do.
Judge Ronald Rose was extremely disappointed that Officer Parker did not show and the court attempted to reach her via telephone, and when they did, Officer Parker informed the court clerk that she did not have her notes on the case and did not want to testify. Judge Rose found her in contempt of court and issued a body attachment or a warrant for her arrest.
Also scheduled to testify were two LAPD gang enforcement officers with the Wilshire Division, who would have testified that Espinoza registered as a gang member on March 4, 2008 which was a condition from of his 2007 arrest for brandishing a weapon on Samuel Duran.
Since the defense was not able to present any witnesses, Judge Rose had the prosecution and the defense agree to two simple stipulations; 1) that Espinoza reported to probation on March 3, 2008 and that 2) Espinoza reported to the LAPD Wilshire division on March 4, 2008 to register as a gang member. Palfi wanted to establish that Espinoza was extremely cooperative with reporting to law enforcement and that would be inconsistent with a person that committed a murder according to the defense.
Judge Rose recessed by 11:30 a.m. and continued with jury instructions at 1:30 p.m. Espinoza never testified on his own behalf. Last Thursday Judge Rose addressed Espinoza about his right to remain silent or his choice to testify if he desired. Judge Rose recommended that he take the advice of his attorneys but told Espinoza that the decision is ultimately his own. Judge Rose asked if he understood and Espinoza replied in a soft voice, “Yes your honor.” Judge Rose then asked if he had any questions regarding his right to remain silent and Espinoza replied, “No, your honor.”
Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday morning and the jury could start deliberating by Tuesday afternoon.
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.