Defense attorneys acknowledged that Blanco Garcia was the killer. But they said he had not intended to harm Pham. In his closing argument, attorney David Bernhard reiterated a phrase the defense used again and again to describe the crime: a "perfect storm of tragedy."
Defense attorneys said Blanco Garcia had smoked PCP that Sunday and planned to steal TVs from stores. But as he set out with his daughter, he became sick from the drug and got off the bus at Fairfax Plaza Shopping Center. They said he was in distress, and asked Pham to take him to the hospital.
As they were driving, defense attorneys said, Pham made a wrong turn, and Blanco Garcia became paranoid. He pulled a butcher knife from his backpack and stabbed Pham as his daughter sat nearby, they said.
"We have told you this defendant was hallucinating and fearful and that was his motivation," Bernhard said. "His actions were not the product of hatred."
Of course not. When a teenage girl takes a wrong turn after giving you the ride you asked for, naturally the thing you would do -- as a grown man twice her size -- is slice her to ribbons. No hatred there!
The defense called just three witnesses when presenting its case Thursday. Two Fairfax County police officers testified that they had each responded to a call in 2006 after Blanco Garcia had reportedly used crack and PCP.
The defense's third witness, a forensic toxicologist, testified that the symptoms Blanco Garcia said he had suffered the day of the killing were consistent with PCP intoxication. He said that PCP users can suffer hallucinations and have breaks with reality.
Do remember, though, that PCP and other drugs like heroin and meth should be legalized, and thus made more widely available, because they're "victimless."
But the trial ultimately turned on the words of the defendant himself. Blanco Garcia never took the stand, but prosecutors played a dramatic, two-hour police interrogation during which the defendant broke down, admitted his role in the killing and apologized.
"I remember I asked [Pham] to drop me off at the hospital," Blanco Garcia told detectives. "Then she took the wrong way. In my mind, because I was really high, I thought she was going to do something to me. I had a knife in my backpack . . . and then I did what I did."
This post is not about the death penalty, but I can't help closing by wondering what justification there is for not executing this killer. He had more than ample knowledge of what PCP does, but kept on with it anyway.