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Accused killer denied new attorney
September 15, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

Gregory Elarms

The Pittsburg man charged with murdering a childhood friend at a San Mateo shopping center because he reportedly felt the community activist was out to get him cannot fire the court-appointed attorney who recently failed to convince a judge his client is incompetent to stand trial.

After holding a confidential hearing on Gregory Elarms’ request for new counsel, a judge ruled that he cannot have a new attorney. Attorney Jonathan McDougall is Elarms’ second attorney already, having replaced the lawyer representing him before he was committed to a state mental facility. A previous request to release McDougall was also declined.

Elarms is currently scheduled to start trial on murder and gun charges Oct. 29. He is also charged with lying in wait for David Lewis which leaves him facing no chance of parole if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 9, 2010 shooting.

Elarms is accused of following East Palo Alto activist Lewis, 54, from the San Mateo Medical Center where he was an outreach worker to the parking lot of Hillsdale Shopping Center on June 9, 2010. Just before 6 p.m., Elarms allegedly pulled a .44-caliber gun and shot Lewis in the torso.

During a preliminary hearing on the murder and gun charges, a San Mateo police detective testified that Elarms believed gangmembers were after him and that Lewis, once his friend, was now his opponent. Lewis uttered the name "Greg” before dying but police made no arrests until contacted by Elarms six months after the shooting.

Elarms’ prosecution was on hold for the better part of a year while he was hospitalized in a state mental facility as incompetent but he recently returned to San Mateo County after doctors concluded he is now able to aid in his own defense. A judge declared him competent based on those reports. Elarms then refused to waive his right to a speedy trial and asked to replace McDougall.

Elarms remains in custody without bail. He faces life in prison with parole if convicted.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

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