Closing arguments began today in the San Mateo County Superior Court trial of Alexander Youshock, who is accused of bringing 10 homemade pipe bombs, a sword and a chainsaw to Hillsdale High School as part of a plan to kill three of his former teachers on Aug 24, 2009.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said the only thing that kept the Hillsdale High attack from becoming a school massacre on par with those at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech was a combination of the defendant not being able to start his chainsaw and the heroic actions of school staff, who risked their lives by tackling him.
Guidotti reiterated testimony given by the Youshock himself, who admitted that if his chainsaw had started that morning and his plans had succeeded, he and his former chemistry teacher, Meghan Spaulding, would have been dead at the end of the assault.
Guidotti called Youshock a "truly dangerous young man" whose aim it was to end the lives of three teachers and anyone else who got in his way that day.
Youshock is charged with attempting to murder Spaulding and a campus security guard, Jana Torres, who saw Youshock trying to start his chainsaw in the hall outside Spaulding's classroom and ran at him, prompting the defendant to light a pipe bomb and throw it at her.
Torres jumped over the bomb and was not injured when it exploded.
The fact that Youshock deliberately lit the fuse within an inch of the bomb demonstrated his intent to make it explode quickly and stop Torres from interfering with his plan, Guidotti said.
The defense has argued that Youshock has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and that the illness prevented him from being able to formulate intent to commit murder.
Guidotti sought to unravel that argument by saying that Youshock's schizophrenic symptoms were exaggerated by the defense.
"All you have to do is look at what he did to determine he could form intent," Guidotti said.
She said his suicidal tendencies were overstated, that he had opportunities to kill himself but never did.
The prosecutor said Youshock's hallucinations were infrequent before his arrest, and could even be considered normal if they occurred at nighttime or just before sleep.
Guidotti also argued that Youshock's purported paranoia was simply a manifestation of a very real fear that police or his parents might catch on to his planned attack and stop him from carrying it out.
She said that the introduction of schizophrenia as a defense was motivated by Youshock's desire to escape responsibility for his actions, and called it "an abuse of the justice system."
Guidotti asked the jurors to put all sympathy for the defendant aside during their deliberations.
"Sympathy has no place in the search for the truth," she said.
Youshock has been charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of exploding a destructive device with the intent to commit murder, one count of possession of a destructive device in a public place, one count of use of explosives in an act of terrorism, and two counts of possession of a deadly weapon.
If he is found guilty of any of the charges against him, a second trial will begin before the same judge and jury to determine his sanity.