Sanity of teen accused of attack on San Mateo high school focus of hearing 

Two doctors are expected to opine Friday whether the teen accused of a bomb attack at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo was sane at the time of his alleged crime, an issue that could let him avoid going to prison even if he’s convicted of attempted murder.

On Aug. 24, 2009, 17-year-old Alexander Youshock allegedly went to his former high school with a 2-foot sword, a chain saw and 10 pipe bombs strapped to a tactical vest. His intention, police and prosecutors say, was to kill staff members and students.

Youshock allegedly detonated two pipe bombs during the incident. A teacher, Kennet Santana, is credited with tackling the suspect and detaining him until police arrived. No one was injured.

The teenager has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to seven felonies, including two counts of attempted murder, two counts of exploding a destructive device, two counts of possessing explosives and one count of possessing a dagger.

The doctors expected to present reports Friday would be key witnesses during a potential sanity phase that would occur if Youshock were convicted. Their reports will give both sides a preview of whether they would testify he was insane.

During that second sanity phase, the jurors would consider a two-pronged test — whether Youshock knew what he was doing and whether he knew it was wrong, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. The court would hear testimony from the doctors and other outside experts retained by each side.

Wagstaffe said prosecutors believe Youshock meets both sanity standards.

If a jury were to convict Youshock and then find him insane, he would be sent indefinitely to a state hospital. He would have to stay for at least 180 days, Wagstaffe said, but could then be released whenever his sanity was considered restored.

After the case began wending its way through the courts, the young man’s attorney raised questions about his competency to stand trial. But in September, Judge Stephen Hall found Youshock competent to stand trial.

Nonetheless, Youshock’s attorney, Jonathan McDougall, subsequently added the insanity plea to his original plea of not guilty. McDougall did not return numerous phone calls seeking comment for this story.

While the forthcoming trial would have been delayed if Hall had found Youshock not competent, the insanity plea — a question of his state of mind during the incident — could determine his possible punishment.

Youshock could carry a potential sentence of seven years to life in prison if he is convicted. The trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 31.


Psychoanalysis key to trial

A decision on whether Alexander Youshock was sane during his alleged attack at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo could determine his sentence if he is convicted of the charges he faces, which include attempted murder.

  • On Friday, two doctors will weigh in on whether they think Youshock was sane at the time of the incident.
  • The jury trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 31.
  • If the jury finds Youshock guilty, a second phase of the trial begins with the same jurors.
  • If the jury finds Youshock to be sane, he would be sentenced for the conviction.
  • If Youshock is found to be insane, he would be sent to a mental hospital for an indefinite period.

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Shaun Bishop

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