Prosecution rests their case agasint Shaw Jr.’s accused killer
By Alex A. Alonso
Streetgangs.com Staff Writer
May 7, 2012 | 4:15 a.m. PST
Friday marked the fourth and final day of the prosecution’s case against Pedro Espinoza who is accused of killing Jamiel Shaw, Jr. on March 2, 2008.
LAPD Gang Expert testifies
Officer Winston Lee of the LAPD testified Friday morning in the trial against Espinoza. Officer Lee is a gang expert that focuses on 5 gangs in the area including 18th Street and Rollin’ 20s Bloods and spent most of the morning talking about gang issues. He stated that Espinoza was a high ranking soldier of 18th Street specifically from the Alcase (AA or ALS) click located near Adams & Alcase Avenue. He stated that Espinoza’s status was based on a self admission and his associations with other 18th Street gang members including Joel Rodriguez, Francisco Fuerte and Rene Machuco.
Deputy District Attorney Allyson Ostrowski asked Officer Lee a hypothetical question based on some of the evidence presented in this trial to determine if Espinoza’s aggression was done so for the benefit of the gang. She presented Officer Lee the following;
“an 18th Street gang member was driving in Rollin’ 20 Blood neighborhood and makes a comment to another passenger in the car that there is a Blood, referring to Shaw walking down the street, then jumps out the car and asks Shaw, ‘where are you from,’ then shoots him once and sees him fall down, then shoots again, and leaves in the car.”
Ostrowski then continued;
“when he returns into the car, the other male passenger (Joel Rodriguez) says to Espinoza, ‘Dam nigga, you a killer” and the 18th Street member replies, “yeah, I’m a killer just like Kid (other 18th Street).” Days later he tells a non-gang member ‘BK all day, I wipe out all Bloods.’”
Ostrowski asked Officer Lee if the scenario presented was done so for the benefit of the gang, and he replied yes. Lee stated that the 18th Street member knew he was in rival area, and when the shooter said, “where are you from,” that is gang terminology. Lee also stated that the statement made to the non-gang member about killing Bloods instills fear and intimidates that person, and that the shooting itself instills fear to any witnesses and to the gang in the rival area.
Lee also testified that an 18th Street member would perceive all people in that rival area as an enemy.
Under cross examination defense attorney Csaba Palfi asked Officer Lee about the meaning of graffiti while showing graffiti of Rollin’ 20s that was written on 4th Ave and 21st Street. Lee told the jury that the graffiti marks territory and means that a gang is claiming that neighborhood. The graffiti also contained “18K” which means 18th Street Killer.
To get beyond the notion that 18th Street gang members attack Blacks indiscriminately, defense attorney Palfi asked Officer Lee if there were Black gangs that 18th Street were on friendly terms with. School Yard Crips, Marvin Gang, and West Blvd Crips were among the main Black gangs that 18th Street are allies with. Early on there were people that believed that Shaw’s killer targeted him because he was Black, and that “BK” meant black killer, but this shooting appears to have nothing to do with race and BK refers to Blood Killer and not Black Killer.
The Coroner’s Report
Dr. Irwin Golden of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office testified about the injuries that Shaw sustained when he was shot. Dr. Irwin testified that Shaw has three gunshot wounds that most likely came from two gun shots fired, and that all three injuries were through-and-through wounds. There were no bullets recovered.
Shaw suffered a gunshot wound through the head that entered the left temple area and exited the right side of the head penetrating the skull and brain. The trajectory of that wound was upward that suggests, Shaw was already down on the ground when he sustained that injury. A second gunshot wound entered Shaw’s abdomen and exited the lower back penetrating abdominal wall, abdominal cavity, and large intestine. This wound was life threatening, but surgery had repaired the wounds. This was most likely the first injury sustained. The third gunshot struck Shaw’s left middle finger above the top knuckle and exited through the palm, fracturing a bone.
Although there were three wounds, Dr. Golden offered the opinion that the bullet that struck Shaw in the head was not a direct hit, so it most likely went through the hand first before striking the head. Since the hand wound went from the knuckle to the palm, Shaw was most likely covering his head with both hands while laying on the ground when he was shot in the head with the second shot.
The last witness on Friday was Jamiel Shaw Sr., the father of the slain victim. Under direction examination by Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace, he provided a timeline of the day that differed from the one that Marc Asher provided. The father testified that he and his son were at Pasadena City College at a football combine workout for college bound high school students and that they were there from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. It was about 3:00 p.m. when Shaw Jr. left for Asher’s place to go to the Beverly Center.
The father testified that he told his son to be home by 7:00 p.m. and when he was late, he called his son to find out his location. After a couple calls, he reached his son again at about 8:00 p.m. when he was almost home crossing the 4th Ave bridge. His son told him, “I am around the corner, will be home in 2 or 3 minutes.” That was the last conversation that Shaw Sr. had with his son. Moments later he heard 2 gun shots and eventually realized his son was shot.
Throughout his testimony defense attorney Palfi objected to Shaw’s long answers that were beyond the scope of Grace’s questions. Judge Ronald Rose would tell prosecutor Grace to ask next question, but within moments, Shaw Jr. was doing the same thing, not testifying but providing what defense attorney called a “victim impact statement.” Apologetically, Palfi objected to Shaw’s testimony about six times during the 22 minute testimony and he did not ask any questions during cross examination.
Palfi immediately made a motion for a mistrial based on the flexibility that the court provided to Shaw Sr. by allowing him to answer beyond the questions. Judge Rose stated that his objections were noted but that the content of what Shaw was testifying about was never cited in any of the objections. Judge Rose also disagreed that Shaw Sr. was rambling for the duration of his testimony as Palfi stated.
The motion was denied and the prosecution rested their case. The defense will present their case starting Monday morning and are expected to be done by Tuesday. The jury could be hearing closing arguments by Wednesday.
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.