COMMENTARY BY SAM SPITAL, Criminal Defense Lawyer, San Diego:
“The Fox.com news reported on January 30, 2013 that a 52 year old Newport Beach Urologist, Dr. Ronald Gilbert, was shot and killed by a 75 year old patient who had a scheduled appointment and brought a handgun with him into the exam room and fired multiple times. The article noted that the murder suspect had not previously seen Dr. Gilbert, but he had suffered from incontinence after a recent surgery although it was not revealed who performed it.
Two neighbors were interviewed and one said the accused claimed: ‘I had surgery and now I am worse than before the surgery.’ Another neighbor said he declared: ‘he wasn’t going to be around much longer.’ These facts and more may be the basis of the prosecution arguing this was a premeditated murder. The defendant can face life in prison or the death penalty.
In 1972, the California Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty. However, the California Constitution was modified through the voter-initiative process passing Proposition 17, thereby reinstating the death penalty. The statute was subsequently modified making the death penalty mandatory for specified crimes including murder one with special circumstances. Only a voter approved ballot measure can alter this statute, and in 2012 when the California voters had the opportunity to do so with Proposition 34, they rejected doing so by 53%.
At the time of the arraignment, the Defendant told the Superior Court he did not have the financial means to hire a private attorney, and the Judge set the matter over so that a Deputy Public Defender would be appointed on his behalf.”