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Murder suspect denied request for new lawyer
January 25, 2013, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

The prime suspect in the 2010 shooting of an East Palo Alto activist who still faces sentencing for possessing three homemade shanks in the county jail unsuccessfully sought yesterday to fire the court-appointed defense attorney responsible for having the murder case dismissed.

Gregory Leon Elarms Sr., 60, of Pittsburg, wanted to fire attorney Jonathan McDougall and either be appointed a new lawyer or represent himself. After Judge Jonathan Karesh denied Elarm's motion to replace McDougall, he withdrew his secondary request to act as his own attorney.

Elarms has tried firing McDougall multiple times since his assignment to the case. The motion was denied each time.

Elarms will be back in court Wednesday for sentencing on the jailhouse weapons charges and faces up to four years in prison. The weapons — a spork, a toothbrush and two pencils strapped together and all sharpened to a point — were discovered during cell searches in February 2011. Elarms pleaded no contest earlier this month.

Prosecutors added the felony charges in November after Judge Stephen Hall threw out Elarms' police confession and, with it, the murder case stemming from the June 8, 2010 shooting of David Lewis. The District Attorney's Office asked the state Attorney General's Office to appeal the ruling and used the weapons case as a way to keep Elarms in custody in the meantime.

Elarms' new case came as he was in custody without bail awaiting trial for Lewis' murder in the parking garage of Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo. Elarms is accused of following Lewis from San Mateo Medical Center, where he was an outreach worker, to the parking garage and shooting him once in the torso. The men reportedly knew each other from childhood but Elarms believed Lewis had become his enemy.

Lewis uttered the name "Greg” before dying but police made no arrests until contacted by Elarms six months after the shooting. During the murder trial in November, Judge Stephen Hall ruled Elarms' police confession inadmissible because San Mateo police did not Mirandize him or respond to his numerous requests for a lawyer.  

Elarms' prosecution was on hold for the better part of a year while he was hospitalized in a state mental facility before being found fit for trial. Upon his return to San Mateo County last year, Elarms refused to waive his right to a speedy trial and asked to replace McDougall yet again.

Elarms is in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

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