An Alameda County judge who is set to preside over the trial of a transient man suspected of fatally stabbing 18-year-old Nia Wilson at the MacArthur BART station last year is still unconvinced about the man's attorney's push to have his mental competence re-examined.
Defense attorney Christina Moore says that circumstances have changed and the mental competence of 29-year-old John Lee Cowell needs to be reevaluated based on "a new and different presentation of symptoms" in recent months. As KPIX reports, at a hearing Monday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge James Cramer sounded inclined not to agree with Moore, but he said he would make a final ruling Tuesday on whether to proceed to trial on January 6.
Cowell stands accused of attempted murder after allegedly slitting Wilson's throat on July 22, 2018, and also injuring Wilson's sister Letifah. Late last year, Cramer suspended legal proceedings citing "substantial evidence" that Cowell may be unfit to stand trial. But reevaluations by three psychiatrists six months later found that Cowell was mentally fit for trial, and this led to an arraignment in November when Cowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and, against the advice of his attorney, requested a speedy trial.
At Monday's hearing, Cramer made public some details of a grand jury transcript, including the fact that he has Cowell has been refusing to meet with Moore, and refusing to meet with two doctors who were sent to reevaluate his mental state.
"There’s an unwillingness to cooperate versus an inability to do so based on a mental deficit," Cramer said, per KPIX. He cited that the three psychiatrist who evaluated Cowell in the summer said he was "malingering" — or feigning mental incompetence to avoid trial.
Moore argued that Cowell may be both malingering and continuing to exhibit real mental illness.
Judge Cramer said he need to review more legal precedents before moving forward. Moore cautioned him not to rush things, given that Cowell's case could later be appealed based on his mental state.