An Orange County Superior Court jury began deliberating Tuesday whether a 79-year-old Lake Elsinore man was legally insane the day he fatally shot his former Newport Beach doctor in 2013.
On Monday, the 12-member jury swiftly convicted Stanwood Elkus, a retired barber, of first-degree murder in the slaying of Dr. Ronald Gilbert, who had been Elkus' urologist years earlier. Prosecutors said Elkus used a fake name to get an appointment in Gilbert's Newport office, where he shot the 52-year-old physician 10 times after he walked into the exam room.
Jurors, who deliberated roughly 40 minutes before finding Elkus guilty Monday, also found true a sentencing enhancement allegation of personal use of a gun and a special-circumstance allegation of lying in wait.
Now, jurors are tasked with determining whether Elkus was legally insane the day of the killing or whether he was sane and understood the weight and consequences of his actions.
If jurors determine Elkus was insane at the time of the killing, he will be sent to a mental health facility. If they reject the claim, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. The jury is expected to continue deliberations Monday.
Elkus took the stand against his attorney's advice Tuesday to address the jury, railing against doctors he said botched a surgery 21 years ago to repair a urethral stricture — a narrowing of the urethra — at the veterans hospital in Long Beach.
Elkus blamed the operation for his incontinence, erectile dysfunction, diminished sex drive and, ultimately, the loss of his longtime girlfriend whom he wanted to marry.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy told jurors at the onset of the roughly three-week trial that Elkus was still seething over the surgery when he drove 55 miles to Gilbert's office and shot him Jan. 28, 2013.
"I wanted to tell you all I didn't deliberately go and try to kill Ron Gilbert," Elkus said.
In 1992, Gilbert was a young medical resident working at the Long Beach VA hospital. He worked with a team of doctors to diagnose Elkus with a urethral stricture 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.
Elkus on Tuesday told jurors that he didn't blame Gilbert, but instead condemned the doctor's two former VA colleagues for the results of the surgery, which he said ruined his life.
"If I was going to do anything to anybody, it would be those two people," he 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.
During his 10-minute testimony in front of the jury, Elkus didn't offer an apology for the shooting, instead describing his dissatisfaction with being sent home with a catheter after the 1992 surgery, his current difficulty emptying his bladder and uncomfortable jail conditions.
When Murphy asked him whether he understood right from wrong, Elkus replied "not necessarily."
Gilbert's widow sat in the second row of the Santa Ana courtroom Tuesday surrounded by family. She rested her face in her hands while she cried.
Elkus' defense attorney, Colleen O'Hara, argued Tuesday 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 Elkus was operating within a delusional reality for decades leading up to the killing.
"A person operating within his own reality does not always know the difference between right and wrong," O'Hara told jurors.
During the trial, however, Murphy's version of events painted Elkus as clear-headed and diligent in his plan to harm Gilbert.
Murphy alleged that in 2010, after years of stewing, Elkus began making plans for revenge.
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.
"He's not operating in his own reality. He was operating in our reality. He was operating in Ron Gilbert's reality," Murphy told jurors Tuesday. "He made a decision that day to take the life of someone he was mad at."
Around 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.
"Today is the day for justice for Stanwood Elkus, but it's also the day for justice for Ron Gilbert," Murphy told jurors.