The attorney for defendant Jing Hwa Wu says his client was insane when he shot and killed his three victims at point blank range.
The insanity defense is not unique. What is different is what Wu's attorney says caused his insanity -- the brutality of China's Cultural Revolution decades ago.
"A potentially beautiful oriental vase that from inception had a crack," defense attorney Tony Serra said.
That's what Serra calls his client. Serra says the 52-year-old engineer experienced a psychotic breakdown when he shot and killed three SiPort executives. His head was filled with flashbacks, Serra says from the brutal abuse Wu and his parents suffered during the Cultural Revolution.
"They were considered traitors; they were vilified and spit on, they were forced into hard labor and they never had enough food," Serra said.
The murders happened Nov. 14, 2008 at SiPort's offices in Santa Clara. Wu had been fired that morning. He was supposed to come back the next week to see if he could work instead as a consultant, but police say Wu returned that same evening, fatally shooting the three while they were in a meeting.
Serra says Wu really intended to shoot himself in front his bosses.
"Then they charged him, that is, to disarm him and his mind goes blank, he doesn't remember pulling the trigger," Serra said.
Prosecutors say it was pure and simple revenge and that Wu planned the murders. They say Wu even bought 100 bullets for his pistol hours before he gunned down his victims.
Serra says his client is mentally ill; that he has recurrent images of the horror he suffered at the hands of the Red Guards when he was five to 15.
"The other children all abused him and bullied him; they dragged him to a pond and attempted to drown him," Serra said.
ABC7 News legal analyst Dean Johnson says Serra does has a unique defense but it's going to be a hard sell.
"In circumstances like this where somebody has a motive to commit a killing and then later after the fact, they claim insanity, juries are very suspicious," Johnson said.
The district attorney's office declined a request for an interview, but prosecutors said in court that Wu threatened one of his victims -- the one who actually fired him -- saying "you will pay for this."
SiPort no longer exists. It was bought by Intel two years ago.
Court resumes Tuesday.