Espinoza spoke to Eyewitness News in an exclusive phone call after the jury returned its recommendation Wednesday.
"To the Shaw family, yeah, I do, I actually understand their pain. I understand their grief. I understand all that perfectly. But I'm not the one that did that to their son," Espinoza said.
Espinoza was convicted of fatally shooting Jamiel Shaw II, a 17-year-old star football player at Los Angeles High School. On March 2, 2008, Espinoza confronted and shot the teen in the abdomen and the head just a few doors away from Shaw's Arlington Heights home, thinking Shaw was a rival gang member.
Espinoza, now 23, was convicted on May 9 of first-degree murder with a gang enhancement. Espinoza's gang affiliation made him eligible for the death penalty.
Espinoza's defense contended there was no weapon connecting him to the crime and there was no witness.
Shaw's parents spoke to reporters after court Wednesday. Jamiel Shaw Senior said he talks to his deceased son.
"'We did it. Your life wasn't in vain,'" said Shaw's father. "I always tell him, 'Sorry about what happened. Sorry about that, man. Under the circumstances, this is the best that we could do.' We can't do no more than the conviction with the death penalty."
"That's why we've got so many bad people, because they don't fear the punishment," said Anita Shaw. "If you fear the punishment, then you won't do the crime."
The same jury was retained for the penalty phase of the trial to determine whether Espinoza received life in prison or a death sentence. It took the jury only four hours to find Espinoza guilty in the murder trial.
"I believe that the lord Jesus Christ has a big deal in the verdict because I believe that people used their conscience, and they voted by their conscience," said mother Anita Shaw.
The jurors had already indicated their feelings toward the death penalty on a separate questionnaire filled out during jury selection. Four said they were neutral, six moderately favored the death penalty and two strongly favored it.
Prosecutors asked for the death penalty. The defense sought life in prison without parole.
Motions have been scheduled for September 17. Sentencing is scheduled for September 21.