After about an hour of deliberations, an Orange County jury on Monday found that Stanwood Elkus, a retired barber, was sane in 2013 when he fatally shot a 52-year-old urologist inside the doctor’s Newport Beach office.
Dr. Ronald Gilbert’s family members, who were seated at the center of the courtroom, held hands and breathed a collective sigh of relief when the verdict was read.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” Glenn Gilbert, Ronald’s older brother, said as he filed out of the courtroom.
In a written statement, Glenn Gilbert said his brother was “benevolent, brilliant, talented, hilarious, loving, pillar of society who enriched the lives of countless people.”
“This verdict will hopefully help us move forward from the terrible injustice that was perpetrated not just against my brother, but against the many hundreds of people who loved him and were positively affected by him,” he wrote.
The same 12-member jury found Elkus, 79, guilty last week of first-degree murder for making an appointment with Gilbert, using a fake name and shooting the physician 10 times when he walked into the exam room.
Jurors, who deliberated about 40 minutes Aug. 21 before finding Elkus guilty, also found true a sentencing enhancement allegation of personal use of a gun and a special-circumstance allegation of lying in wait.
Since Elkus pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charge by reason of insanity, jurors were asked to determine whether Elkus was legally insane at the time of the killing or whether he was sane and understood the weight and consequences of his actions.
Elkus is facing a potential sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Had jurors determined he was insane during the shooting, he likely would have been sent to a mental health facility.
Elkus told Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue on Monday that he wanted to fire his attorney, Colleen O'Hara, and have the court appoint a new lawyer so he can file a motion for a new trial.
However, Elkus changed his mind when Donahue explained that the process would take months. Elkus said he’d “rather go to prison.”
“I’m not getting any younger and I’m not getting healthier,” he said.
He is expected to be sentenced Sept. 15.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy told jurors at the outset of the roughly three-week trial that Elkus was seething over a surgery performed in 1992 when he drove 55 miles to Gilbert’s office and shot him on Jan. 28, 2013.
Elkus blamed what he called a “botched” surgery for his incontinence, erectile dysfunction, diminished sex drive and, ultimately, the loss of his longtime girlfriend whom he wanted to marry.
In 1992, Gilbert, then a young medical resident, worked with a team of doctors to diagnose Elkus with a urethral stricture — a narrowing of the urethra — at the veterans hospital in Long Beach after he complained of frequent urination, Murphy said.
Two other VA doctors performed the surgery — without Gilbert — to widen Elkus’ urethra, but Elkus continued to hold a grudge against Gilbert, Murphy said.
For decades, Elkus has bent the ear of doctors, neighbors and friends about the procedure. He showed up to urologists’ offices with a stack of medical records and a tape recording of his then-girlfriend discussing his sexual problems.
O’Hara argued during the trial that her client had slipped into a state of psychosis the day of the shooting and wasn’t aware of his actions being legally or morally wrong.
Elkus, she said, has dementia and severe brain damage that affects his inhibitions and impulse control. She has said Elkus did not intend to harm the doctor when he made an appointment with him, but that an anti-depressant he took weakened his inhibitions and he became psychotic.
She argued that Elkus was operating within a delusional reality for decades leading up to the killing.
During the trial, however, Murphy’s version of events painted Elkus as clear-headed and diligent in his plan to harm Gilbert.
In 2010, after years of stewing, Elkus began making plans for revenge, Murphy alleged.
Murphy said Elkus created a living trust for his sister to assume control of all of his assets and property in the event of his death or incarceration, and printed out MapQuest directions to Gilbert’s Hoag Hospital-affiliated office on Superior Avenue. In December 2012, he bought a Glock 21, a .45-caliber handgun, and practiced shooting about 150 rounds with it, Murphy said.
On Jan. 22, 2013, Elkus drove to Gilbert’s office at Orange Coast Urology and made an appointment under a fake name, “Allen Gold.” He was scheduled to return several days later.
Murphy alleged that Elkus began putting his affairs in order the week leading to the shooting and knew the consequences of his actions. He left copies of his trust, instructions for his rental properties and a reminder to pay the gardener on a cabinet inside his house. He packed a bag with his medication, loaded his gun and drove to Newport Beach.
About 2 p.m. Jan. 28, 2013, Elkus checked in at Gilbert’s office and was led to an examination room. When Gilbert entered the room, he was shot 10 times in the chest, neck and side. All but one bullet went through his body, leaving holes in the wall.
Elkus opened the door holding a handgun and told a nurse, “I’m insane. Call the police,” Murphy said.
Gilbert, who lived in Huntington Harbour, died on the floor in the hallway outside the exam room, despite his colleagues’ attempt to save him.
After his brother’s death, Glenn Gilbert produced a record called Rone On! as a tribute. Ronald’s friends and family knew him by the nickname Rone.
Glenn Gilbert said he looks at the album as a way for people to remember his brother’s legacy instead of simply focusing on the tragic way he died.
The lyrics to the song “Super-Mensch” describe Ronald’s joyful spirit and the positive impact he left on those around him, both his patients and those who loved him.
“I celebrate you Rone, I always will,” Glenn Gilbert sings.