Judge Sets July 29 Trial on BART Stabbing Suspect's Competency

A judge on Monday scheduled a trial to begin July 29 on the mental competency of a transient who's charged with murder in the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Nia Wilson at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland last July.

At a brief hearing, Alameda County Superior Court Judge James Cramer also turned over some of John Lee Cowell's psychiatric records to the prosecution.

The prosecution wants its expert, Dr. Jason Roof, to be able to review the records before he examines John Lee Cowell, 28, for three to four hours on May 30 at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, where Cowell is being held without bail for the stabbing at the MacArthur station at about 9:36 p.m. on July 22.

At Cowell's previous hearing on April 24 Cramer ordered Cowell to cooperate with the examination by Ruth, who is an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California Davis Medical Center and has been qualified as an expert witness and testified about mental disorders, sanity and competence to stand trial.

Cramer suspended the criminal proceedings against Cowell on Dec. 27, saying there is "substantial evidence" that he's mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Cramer appointed two psychiatrists to examine Cowell and submit reports to the court on their findings about his mental competence but their conclusions differed.

One expert said he believes Cowell is incompetent to stand trial but the other expert said he was unable to arrive at a conclusion about Cowell's competency.

Although Cramer is allowing Ruth to examine Cowell and review his psychiatric records, he said anything that Cowell says to the psychiatrist can only be used at his competency trial and can't be used at a potential criminal trial if he ultimately is found to be competent.

Cowell is charged with murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing Wilson and her sister, 26-year-old Letifah Wilson, as well as a special circumstance allegation that he killed Wilson while lying in wait, an allegation that could result in the death penalty or life in prison without parole if he's convicted.

Cowell is scheduled to return to court on Friday for a hearing on a motion by his lawyers to bar Roof from conducting one of the tests he wants to perform on Cowell.

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