OAKLAND, Calif. - An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled on Friday that criminal proceedings against John Lee Cowell will proceed and he's considered competent to stand trial for murder charges in the deadly stabbing of Nia Wilson at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland.
Out of an abundance of caution, Judge James Cramer also ordered that an expert witness conduct another mental evaluation of Cowell before trial. It will be the fourth report on Cowell's mental capacity.
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.
Cowell also is charged with a special circumstance allegation that he killed Wilson while lying in wait, a charge that could result in him getting sentenced to life in prison without parole or the death penalty if he's convicted.
Her family attended the Christmas Eve hearing and clapped in court after the judge ruled the trial would go on.
"If we're not here we won't know what's going to happen," Wilson's mother Alicia Grayson said. "We got to be here to see for ourselves and make sure our daughter, sister, aunty, granddaughter, get her justice. We all want justice for Nia."
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 against Cowell, based in part on a new doctor's report that found that Cowell was competent to stand trial.
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.
Alameda County prosecutor Butch Ford had previously said one of the psychiatrists who examined Cowell reported that he refused to take his medication because he wanted to be found incompetent to stand trial.
But Moore said she believes there is "a new and different presentation of symptoms" in Cowell that make him incompetent to stand trial.
In court, it was revealed Cowell refused to meet with his attorney or doctor. Moore also said it's possible that Cowell is still suffering from mental illness in addition to malingering.
She said, "It's not one or the other, it can be both."
However, Ford suggested Cowell was "trying to beat the case" and was faking his mental state in hopes of avoiding a criminal trial.
"He's shutting down," Grayson said. "He's trying to do what he can do to prolong his fate."
The trial is expected to move forward early next year. Cowell will also meet with the court-apointed psychologist on January 10.