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John Lee Cowell Ordered To Trial For BART Station Murder Of Nia Wilson

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- An Alameda County judge ruled Tuesday that John Lee Cowell was mentally competent and would face a murder trial for the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Nia Wilson at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland last year.

Superior Court Judge James Cramer also ordered another round of psychological testing for the 29-year-old.

At a Monday hearing, Cramer had said that Cowell was not cooperating with psychologists and was "malingering" to avoid standing trial. The judge recessed the hearing, saying he needed 24 hours to reach his decision on moving forward with Cowell's Jan. 6th murder trial.


Nia Wilson
Nia Wilson. (Family photo via Facebook)

Cowell is charged with murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing Wilson and her sister, 26-year-old Letifah Wilson, on the platform at the MacArthur station at 9:36 p.m. on July 22, 2018.

John Lee Cowell
John Lee Cowell (Alameda County Sheriff's Office)

He was also charged with a special circumstance allegation that he killed Wilson while lying in wait, a count that could result in him getting sentenced to life in prison without parole or the death penalty if he's convicted.

Cramer suspended the criminal proceedings against Cowell last Dec. 27, saying there was "substantial evidence" that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial. But at a hearing on July 17, Cramer reinstated the criminal proceedings, based in part on a new doctor's report.

At a hearing on Nov. 22, Cowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and a Jan. 6 trial date was set for him because, against the advice of his attorney Christina Moore, he asked for a speedy trial.

Cramer said on Monday that Cowell has refused to meet with two doctors who were appointed last month to evaluate his current mental state. Cramer said Cowell also is refusing to meet with Moore.

The judge said he realizes that Cowell has a long history of mental illness and has made "nonsensical and delusional statements." But he said all three psychiatrists who examined Cowell earlier this year found that he was "malingering."


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