SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A prosecutor in the trial of a man accused of killing three managers at a Santa Clara semiconductor company in 2008 said Thursday the defendant was resentful about being fired from his $125,000-a-year job and returned a day later to shoot the victims to death.
Jing Hua Wu, a former testing engineer for the firm SiPort, Inc., “begged for his job” back during a follow-up meeting with the three victims the afternoon of Nov. 14, 2008, and when they refused, he shot them, Deputy District Attorney Tim McInerny said.
“Revenge. That’s what this case comes down to,” McInerny said in his opening statement in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose Thursday morning.
McInerny said the killings were “planned, purposeful and premeditated.”
Wu, 51, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder with special circumstances for the deaths of SiPort CEO Sid Agrawal, 56; its vice president of operations Brian Pugh, 47; and human resources manager Marilyn Lewis, 67.
The special-circumstance allegations could make Wu eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted.
SiPort, which made high definition radio chips, was bought by Intel in 2011.
On Thursday in court, McInerny showed jurors graphic autopsy photos of the three victims and their bullet wounds.
He said Wu had purchased a small 9mm handgun at a gun store in Santa Clara, used it to practice at a gun range in Milpitas and bought 100 rounds of ammunition on the day of the shooting—six of which he used to shoot the victims at close range.
Moments before the shootings occurred inside Agrawal’s office at about 3:45 p.m., employees said they overheard Agrawal exclaim, “We don’t have to do it like that,” to which Wu replied, “I don’t care, you’re just going to send me to jail,” McInerny told jurors.
Employees then heard Lewis shout, “No!” McInerny said.
Wu, standing above both men as they tried to shield themselves
under Agrawal’s desk, allegedly shot Pugh in the top of the head, his chest and buttocks and Agrawal once in the side of his head and once in the neck, McInerny said.
Lewis was shot in the right side of her face, leaving an impression in her cheek of an earring that flew in the air and landed across the room, McInerny said.
SiPort notified Wu he’d been fired on Nov. 13, but he refused to give up his employee badge, portable hard drive and access key to the building and requested a meeting the next morning to appeal to get his job back, McInerny said.
When Wu arrived that morning, he still would not turn in his badge, hard drive and key, avoided picking up his things from his office cubicle and became irritated as Lewis, as human resources head, stood by watching him, McInerny said.
“He physically grabbed and shoved her chair” in anger front of witnesses, McInerny said.
Wu left the building following the shootings and police found him the next day, based on pings from his cell phone, in the parking lot of a shopping center in Mountain View inside a rented SUV.
In the SUV, police recovered his handgun, 80 bullets, $4,800 in cash, his SiPort access key and portable hard drive and a canvas bag containing his termination papers.
In his opening statement, Wu’s defense lawyer, San Francisco civil rights attorney Tony Serra, described his client as “a law-abiding man, family man prior to this horrible, horrible episode,” which he said resulted from Wu’s family struggles in China and mental illness.
Serra said Wu grew up in Communist China. He lived through the Great Famine period of 1958 to 1961 when many people starved, and was there for the Cultural Revolution beginning in the mid-1960s when Wu’s family was denounced for its previous ties to the Nationalist China movement.
Wu was repeatedly beaten for being associated with the nationalist group and once was held underwater and nearly drowned by political opponents, causing him to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, Serra said.
“His whole family would hide at home at night to escape the bullying,” Serra said. “He grew up fearful, he grew up distressed. He grew up in a lifelong depression.”
The defendant’s mother and grandmother had histories of severe mental illness, and Wu himself has suffered from paranoid delusions, been treated for a serious form of depression and has had thoughts of suicide, Serra said.
In the years prior to the shootings, Wu had money invested in residential real estate whose value declined steeply during the U.S. economic downturn in 2008, Serra said. He faced bankruptcy, humiliation for him and his family, and then the loss of this job, the attorney said.
Wu started to have hallucinations and considered suicide prior to the shootings, and then “blacked out” and recalls shooting Pugh but not killing Agrawal or Lewis, Serra said.
Serra said the defense plans to discuss seven diagnoses from experts about Wu’s “mental diseases and defects.”
The defense also will offer evidence that Wu’s sufferings in China and his mental health problems formed the foundation for the shootings.
“We have a good, strong case as to his mentality,” Serra said.
“The evidence is going to show he was very, very mentally ill.”
Serra concluded by telling jurors that the defense will provide them with reasonable doubt to refute the murder charges and instead convict Wu on the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The prosecution’s first witness, Aiman Kabakibo, a SiPort manager who originally hired Wu for the firm, testified that he attended the 20-minute morning meeting on Nov. 14 with Wu, Agrawal and Pugh.
Wu had been complaining to SiPort employees that he had been “set up to fail by his manager (Pugh),” that he “will be bankrupt” if fired, Kabakibo said.
During the morning meeting, Pugh, who had decided to fire Wu, told Wu that he hadn’t performed well on the job and “’I gave you a task about five months ago and it is still not completed,’” Kabakibo said.
Wu then replied, “’Every closet has dirty socks and if you look, you’re going to find dirty socks,’” Kabakibo said.
The three asked Wu to step out for a time so they could discuss what to do, and during a 10-minute private meeting, Pugh held up a printout of an email in which Wu wrote to Pugh “that he would not escape from Earth and that he should go to hell,” Kabakibo said.
The men finally agreed with Kabakibo’s suggestion to hire Wu as a consultant for three months, and Agrawal told Wu he could come back to the office the following Monday to discuss contract assignments, Kabakibo said.
Wu accepted the offer and calmly agreed to return Monday, Kabakibo said.
But later that day at around 3 p.m., as Kabakibo was on his way to a different meeting, he saw Wu across the office floor “frowning and staring at something on the ground” and Kabakibo said he decided to walk a different route to avoid talking to Wu.
After the meeting, a trip to his office and the men’s room, he heard a commotion in the building and an employee told him “somebody was shot in Sid’s office,” Kabakibo said.
Under cross examination by Serra, Kabakibo admitted that he did not believe that Wu appeared violent that day and that he did not interpret Wu’s email to Pugh as a threat.
Kabakibo also confirmed that Wu had known Pugh before Pugh had joined SiPort and that Wu gave positive feedback about him while the company considered hiring Pugh.
The witness said that he did not recall Wu wanting Pugh’s job, which appeared to contradict McInerny’s assertion in his opening statement that Wu had been jealous of Pugh and thought he deserved Pugh’s job as vice president.
Santa Clara County Judge Sharon A. Chatman told the jury she expects the trial to last about two months.
Jury selection ended Tuesday after 15 jurors were selected from a pool of 105 people, the judge said.
Among those attending the opening session Thursday morning was Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
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