Judge: Parolee will face mur­der trial in stab­bing

Antelope Valley Press - - News -

OAK­LAND (AP) — A judge has ruled that a 29-year-old parolee with a his­tory of men­tal ill­ness is men­tally fit to stand trial for the slay­ing of a woman on an Oak­land sub­way plat­form.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge James Cramer said Tues­day that John Lee Cow­ell will face trial start­ing in Jan­u­ary for the un­pro­voked stab­bing death of 18-year-old Nia Wil­son in July 2018, KPIX-TV re­ported.

Cow­ell has been charged with mur­der and at­tempted mur­der for the at­tack on Wil­son and her sis­ter, Leti­fah,

26, who was wounded in the at­tack.

The trial had been in le­gal limbo as au­thor­i­ties sought to de­ter­mine Cow­ell’s men­tal com­pe­tence.

At a hear­ing Mon­day, Cramer said Cow­ell was not co­op­er­at­ing with doc­tors ap­pointed last month to eval­u­ate him, for the lat­est in a se­ries of eval­u­a­tions. The judge said he un­der­stood Cow­ell has a his­tory of men­tal ill­ness but that doc­tors who had pre­vi­ously ex­am­ined him felt he was “ma­lin­ger­ing” to avoid stand­ing trial.

The judge re­cessed the hear­ing, say­ing he needed 24 hours to reach his de­ci­sion. He an­nounced his rul­ing Tues­day.

Wil­son’s death was one of sev­eral vi­o­lent or fa­tal at­tacks on Bay Area Rapid Tran­sit (BART) lines that con­nect San Francisco to the cities of Berke­ley, Oak­land and others.

BART has an­nounced new safety mea­sures and in­stalled thou­sands of se­cu­rity cam­eras as part of an ef­fort to in­crease safety.

Pros­e­cu­tors have said they will seek a life sen­tence against Cow­ell and are in­ves­ti­gat­ing if he was mo­ti­vated by racial hate when he killed Wil­son.

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