Closing statements in Espinoza murder trial lasts entire day

By Alex A. Alonso Staff Writer
May 9, 2012 | 2:04 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday, closing arguments were presented in the murder trial of Pedro Espinoza, the teenager accused of killing Jamiel Shaw, 17, on March 2, 2008. Espinoza, now 22, was dressed in a dark brown double breasted suit with glasses and hair slicked back.

Prosecution’s closing argument

Deputy District Attorney Allyson Ostrowski opened her arguments by quoting, “I’m a killer,” which were the words Espinoza allegedly told to fellow gang member Joel “Killer” Rodriguez after getting back into the car immediately after shots were fired on March 2, 2008 on 5th Ave.

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Ostrowski used an elaborate slide show to accompany her argument and the first slide included incriminating quotes by the defendant.
Rodriguez, who is a fellow 18th Street member and the third passenger in the car, was never called to testify, but according to Yisenia Sanchez, the driver, Espinoza said, “I’m a killer like Kid” after she heard gun shots.

Ostrowski characterized the Alcase click of 18th Street, where Espinoza is from, as the most elite murder squad of the gang and that Espinoza chose to become a member of that click, chose to be from 18th Street and chose to shot Shaw. She said the last words Shaw heard were, “where are you from?”

Ostrowski told the jury that the white car that neighbor Tiffany Johnson witnessed driving down 5th Ave fits the description of the car Yisenia Sanchez drove when she took Espinoza and Rodriguez to Juan Torres’ home on 5th Ave. Johnson was the only eye witness to the shooting, but she was never able to identify Espinoza as the shooter, in fact she described the shooter as wearing a black hoodie covering the face.

Ostrowski reminded the jury that Sanchez testified that Espinoza noticed Shaw walking west on 21st Street when they were driving to Torres’ house. When the car passed Shaw, there was discussion between Espinoza and Rodriguez who was in the back seat about Shaw being a Blood gang member.

Ostrowski told the jury that Espinoza noticed a Black person in a Spider-man back pack but Espinoza noticed more than that. Apparently initial reports stated that Shaw was wearing a red belt and red sneakers and most likely didn’t even know that the Spider-man back pack, but the prosecution avoided this issue and the defense was only able to establish that he had on a red belt.

Ostrowski told the jury that when Espinoza was at the park with Sanchez later that night, he considered that an alibi because a Culver City Community Service Officer told them to leave the park around 9:00 p.m. and that stop was documented. When Espinoza asked Sanchez, “Are you ok,” Ostrowski told the jury that Espinoza was making sure that she was not going to snitch. Ostrowski showed a slide of a silhouette figure that showed one person on a knee and another person shooting them in the head with the word “SNITCH” on the side.

Ostrowski concluded that the defense provided no alternative explanation to the evidence and that the only reasonable explanation is that Espinoza is guilty of murder.

Defense closing argument

Defense attorney Csaba Palfi began his closing statements by highlighting some of the inconsistencies in the evidence by characterizing the case as weak. He starts of by recalling Yisenia Sanchez’ testimony where she cited that one person got out the car when others stated that there were two persons. Palfi wanted to offer the possibility that Espinoza’s friend, Rodriguez may have been involved in the killing of Shaw. Rodriguez was there and he too is an 18th Street member.

Palfi did not have a detailed slide show, but he projected some hand written notes that were difficult for even him to read at times.

Palfi’s first strong point was telling the jury to be careful of what the witnesses presumed. For example, eye witness Johnson, presumed that the shooter was Hispanic, even though she admitted that she could not see his face nor could see the race or ethnicity of the occupants of the car.
He also told the jury that even though he did not call any witnesses on Monday, his cross examination of the people’s witnesses was also evidence and that the answers or lack thereof is evidence to consider.

Palfi conceded that Espinoza is a gang member, but just because he is a member of 18th Street does not mean he did this murder. He told that jury that you might even believe that Espinoza was involved in some manner but can you be comfortable with the witnesses.

Palfi also reminded the jury that Espinoza reported to both the probation department and to the police to register as a gang member on March 3 and 4 respectively, and that a murderer would not be so cooperative.

He asked the jury to consider why the people did not call Rodriguez, the other 18th gang member and occupant in the car at the time Shaw was killed. Palfi told the jury to remember that then Shaw was on the phone with his girl friend Chrystale Miles, she stated that Shaw made plural statement about who he saw. “Who are these people” or “Where are they from” was what Miles initially told police and according to LAPD officer Javier Hernandez, Miles told the police that Shaw said, “Where are these guys from,” suggesting that perhaps Rodriguez was with Espinoza when they shot him.

Final rebuttal argument
Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace gave the rebuttal argument basically reiterating Ostrowski’s points. He told the jury that even though Johnson described the shooter as wearing a black hoodie, she may have described the suspect in a way so that she would never have to identify him later. He also dismissed the notion that there were two persons involved, based on what Sanchez the driver said.

He told the jury that a weapon was never recovered because the search warrant was done 12 days after the murder and they had plenty of time to get rid of the gun. Grace closed by telling the jury that Espinoza admitted to killing Shaw when he told his friend Juan Torres, “Blood Killer all day, I’ll wipe out all Bloods.”

Ostrowski presented her arguments for 1 hour and 27 minutes follow by Palfi’s arguments that lasted for 1 hour and 45 minutes. After Grace’s 48 minute rebuttal the jury began deliberating at about 4:20 p.m. and were seen leaving the court at about 4:40 p.m. They continued deliberations on Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Alex Alonso is an author, film maker, founder of, 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.

Posted by on May 9 2012. Filed under Features, People of CA v. Pedro Espinoza. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Closing statements in Espinoza murder trial lasts entire day”

  1. Gorilla Man

    Pedro is looking at the Death Penalty for a gang kil#i*gg. Really? wow.

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