The sanity trial of Alexander Youshock neared its conclusion today as a final expert witness for the prosecution testified in San Mateo County Superior Court. Forensic psychologist James Missett, who examined Youshock in March, testified he thought the defendant was sane on the morning he attacked Hillsdale High School with pipe bombs, a sword and a chainsaw on Aug. 24, 2009.
Youshock pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges against him. Last week, the jury convicted him of six felony counts, including attempting to murder his former chemistry teacher. Missett said he reviewed the reports of nearly a half dozen other psychologists and psychiatrists who examined the defendant and diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, but believed there was not enough evidence to reach a conclusive diagnosis. Missett testified that in the months before Youshock’s attack, the defendant was functioning in a highly organized manner that was inconsistent with the disorganized thought and inability to perform daily tasks that are typically noted in severe cases of schizophrenia.
The defendant, Missett said, was able to subversively acquire chemical ingredients to manufacture pipe bombs without being detected, mix the chemicals, and film videos of himself testing bombs and reading from his manifesto, all of which he said require focus and organization that is absent in schizophrenics. “My opinion is he was sane,” Missett said.
Under cross examination by defense attorney Jonathan McDougall, Missett admitted that he was rushed to complete his report and that he finished numerous sections of it by using the findings written by other psychologists and psychiatrists who examined Youshock more thoroughly and interviewed his family members and former teachers. Missett also admitted he did not consider or review various clinical reports made by jail staff who observed Youshock in custody. At one point during his recorded interview with Youshock, Missett said he thought that “Collie” — the nickname Youshock gave his chainsaw derived from the school massacre at Columbine High School — was in reference to a little dog.
McDougall and Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti are expected to make closing arguments Wednesday morning. The jury convicted Youshock of six felony counts last week: attempting to murder teacher Meghan Spalding; exploding a destructive device in an act of terrorism; possession of a destructive device in a public place; carrying a concealed dagger; carrying a concealed explosive; and exploding a destructive device with the intent to kill. They did not convict Youshock of a second charge of attempted murder. In the sanity phase of the trial, the burden of proving that Youshock was insane on the morning of his attack rests with the defense because the defendant is presumed sane, Guidotti said. Youshock would be institutionalized if found not guilty by reason of insanity.
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