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Jamiel Shaw killer's sentencing phase begins

May 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The penalty phase began Tuesday for the man found guilty of the first-degree murder of star high school football player Jamiel Shaw.

The same jury that handed down a guilty verdict for Pedro Espinosa just last week will take three days to hear evidence to determine whether Espinoza should get the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Espinoza's gang affiliation makes him eligible for the death penalty. He was also reportedly in the country illegally when he murdered Shaw. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty with the support of Shaw's family, who says they want their son's case to set precedence. The prosecution plans to put Shaw's parents on the stand Wednesday or Thursday to read victim impact statements.

The jury will be presented with new evidence for the sentencing phase, evidence that was not presented in the trial itself. This includes testimony from probation officers who worked with Espinoza as a minor and deputies in the jail where he is being kept.

Those witnesses will testify to the numerous violent incidents where Espinoza reportedly often attacked other inmates with gang motivation. This testimony will attempt to prove Espinoza is a violent and aggravated offender who is deserving of the death penalty.

The defense will present Espinoza's turbulent childhood and appeal to the jurors' sense of compassion and mercy to give him life in prison instead of death.

The jurors have already indicated their feelings toward the death penalty on a separate questionnaire filled out during jury selection. Four said they are neutral, six moderately favor the death penalty and two strongly favor it.

It took the jury only four hours to find Espinoza guilty last week. The prosecution says Espinoza targeted Shaw because he was a young black person in a gang neighborhood wearing a red Spiderman backpack -- a color that signifies affiliation with the Bloods.

Shaw was gunned down just three doors away from his Arlington Heights home after leaving a friend's house in 2008. Shaw had been attracting attention for his athletic talents from schools like Rutgers and Stanford at the time of his death.

On the last day of the trial, the defense wanted the case thrown out because two jurors wore red that day, which the defense said showed bias against Espinoza.


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