Judge denies motion for change of venue in Nia Wilson murder case

The murder trial for John Lee Cowell, who is charged in the fatal stabbing of Nia Wilson at the MacArthur Bart station in Oakland in 2018, will remain in Alameda County. 

Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer denied a motion on Tuesday filed by Cowell's defense attorney to change the venue for the trial. 

Christina Moore, the public defender representing Cowell, 29, wrote in a motion she filed on Dec. 30 that she doesn't think her client can get a fair trial locally because "prevalent and persistent news coverage has demonstrably prejudiced potential jurors of Alameda County."

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 on July 22, 2018.

Cowell also is charged with a special circumstance allegation that he killed Wilson while lying in wait, a charge that would result in life in prison without parole or the death penalty if he's convicted. He pleaded not guilty to the charges by reason of insanity. 

Wilson's mother, Alicia Grayson, said she is glad the trial will stay in Oakland saying, "It happened here, so why not the peers be able to judge and be jurors to determine his fate; if it happened in the county it should stay in this county." 

Jury selection for the trial starts on Wednesday, on the same day a separate judge is expected to get a new report on Cowell's mental competency prepared by a University of California, Davis psychiatrist. 

The trial could be suspended if the doctor indicated that the defendant is incompetent.