Judge finds BART stabbing defendant John Lee Cowell sane, cuts hearing short because of coronavirus

An Alameda County Superior Court judge presiding over the Nia Wilson murder case found the man who killed her sane, cutting the hearing short in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Judge Allan Hymer issued the "directed verdict" on Monday, finding that John Lee Cowell was sane when he killed Nia Wilson when he  fatally stabbed the 18-year-old Wilson at MacArthur BART station in 2018. 

Hymer made his finding early citing the fact that four jurors are older than 65 and should not be congregating in light of the global pandemic. On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked that people 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions stay indoors.

Related: Jury convicts John Cowell in the murder of Nia Wilson

Since Hymer found Cowell sane at the time of carrying out the attack, he will face life in prison without the possibility of parole. His sentencing hearing will be on April 14.

Otherwise, he would serve his sentence in a state mental hospital instead of prison.

The public defender was upset about the judge's ruling, saying it took the decision away from the jury, who had been deliberating since last week.