The suspect in the 2018 BART station murder of 18-year-old Nia Wilson was thrown out of court last week after an expletive-laced outburst at a prosecutor, and now he is apparently refusing to come back to complete his cross-examination.
It was always going to be dicey proposition putting mentally unstable suspect John Lee Cowell on the stand in his own defense. But the Hail Mary his defense attorney has been going for is convincing the jury that he is so mentally ill that he was not in control of his actions on that tragic day in July 2018. Cowell exhibited more anger than delusion last Thursday, however, when he lashed out during cross-examination by Alameda County prosecutor Butch Ford.
As KRON 4 reports, Cowell became agitated when Ford attempted to replay surveillance video from the day of the killing, telling Ford to "back the fuck down." He was warned once by the judge not to use profanity, but when his rant continued, the judge ejected Cowell from the courtroom and his testimony ended.
Cowell seemed frustrated by the process, as the Mercury News reports, shouting, "You told me fucking not guilty!" and "Now they can’t force me to say shit if I’m fucking leaving."
Ford, meanwhile, was trying to establish both that Cowell could be lucid in talking with his family — including in a recorded jailhouse phone call from last month in which he was requesting books to read — and that he was an active "drug seeker." In one odd bit of testimony on Tuesday, per the Mercury News, Conta Costa Regional Medical Center’s Dr. Jonathan Patberg described an encounter with Cowell the month before the murder. Patberg said Cowell had come in to see him twice in the same day, seeking opioids, and complaining of "breast implants" he had received at a friend's house.
Cowell also told Patberg that he was schizophrenic and suffered from auditory hallucinations. Cowell testified that on the day of Wilson's murder, he heard messages from "aliens" that Wilson and her sisters were aliens who had kidnapped his grandmother.
Also, as the Mercury News reports, Cowell's aunt, Saundra Ferriera, testified Tuesday that she believes Cowell never got over his grandmother's 2013 death — which has led to delusions about her being kidnapped and taken to space.
Judge Allan Hymer has said that he will instruct the jury not to consider any of Cowell's two days of testimony if Cowell does not return to court.