Mortified by SiPort's refusal to keep him employed, the engineer responsible for one of Silicon Valley's worst workplace killings testified Wednesday that he fired the first of six shots at his bosses by accident.
Former test engineer Jing Hua Wu said he was pointing his 9 mm semi-automatic at his own head and threatening suicide, when his immediate supervisor tried to stop him by throwing a chair at him. The chair struck Wu's left elbow, he testified, causing the gun to go off and wound supervisor Brian Pugh in the buttocks.
Wu said doesn't remember much else -- not the two other shots he fired into Pugh's chest and head, the single bullet he used to kill office manager Marilyn Lewis or the two he pumped into CEO Sid Agrawal's head and neck.
Instead, he said, his mind flashed back to the inhumane abuse he suffered in mainland China during the Great Famine and Cultural Revolution, including the endurance during his childhood of water-board torture by young bullies.
"I never had any thoughts about killing anyone -- not just that day, but in my whole life,"Jing Hua Wu told the Santa Clara County Superior Court jury of six men and six women.
But in cross-examination Wednesday afternoon, prosecutor Tim McInerny began chipping away at Wu's contention that he is not guilty by reason of (temporary) insanity. McInerny rejects that notion, arguing instead that Wu committed first-degree murder because he planned the killings to get revenge for the humiliation of being let go by SiPort -- including purchasing the bullets after being fired earlier that fateful Friday.
"Mr. Wu, the whole reason we are here today is you were fired, you lost face and the people responsible for that firing had to pay, isn't it?"the prosecutor asked rhetorically.
McInerny is set to continue cross-examining the 51-year-old engineer Thursday. That's when he'll query him about the actual Nov. 14, 2008, final confrontation between Wu and his bosses at the then-startup in Santa Clara.
McInerny questioned Wu's argument that he was under enormous financial pressure in 2008 and that the firing sent him over the edge mentally, preventing him from forming the specific intent to kill. The prosecutor noted that Wu had landed on his feet after being laid off before. His skills were in high demand even after the dot-com bust in the early 2000s.
The only difference between being laid off in 2001 and this time, McInerny suggested, was that Wu was the only SiPort worker singled out for termination. By Wu's own account, he felt like a "dog begging for a bone"when he pleaded with Agrawal during that last fateful meeting to keep him on for at least six weeks because otherwise he would go bankrupt. The CEO agreed to let him come back for three months as a contractor, but Wu said he did not believe the offer was sincere.
McInerny also scoffed at Wu's insistence that he lived in mortal fear of being audited again by the IRS. Wu was far from being on the verge of going entirely broke, the prosecutor said. His eight rental properties had lost value, but Wu was still keeping up his payments.
He also had at least $61,780 in the bank, and would have received another $5,400 if he had simply returned SiPort's key fob and turned over the external drive of his computer.
Hospital versus prison
Wu also never previously reported having psychiatric problems or a history of mental illness in his family to doctors he saw in 2001 when he was feeling depressed because of problems at another job. This week, he testified his mother had been in a mental hospital, his beloved eldest sister committed suicide and that he suffered from hallucinations and other problems.
McInerny got Wu to acknowledge that he'd learned from other inmates that life in a state mental hospital was more "humane"than prison, the food was better and there were some beautiful nurses. Wu also has had four years behind bars to study the law regarding insanity because he was acting as his own lawyer for a time.
Unlike most defendants, Wu is educated, articulate and accustomed to dealing with people as an equal. Wednesday, he clashed with McInerny, saying in response to a query, "How can you possibly ask such a question? Is that how you conduct yourself?"
He'd also challenged his own lawyer, Tony Serra, saying of one of his questions: "I don't think this is in the right order."
Both times, the normally easygoing Judge Sharon A. Chatman ordered Wu in a loud voice to stop it.
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.