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Judge Suspends Criminal Proceedings for BART Stabbing Suspect Until Mental Evaluation

Judge James Cramer said there is "substantial evidence" that Cowell is incompetent to stand trial. The court will hear a doctor’s mental health evaluation of Cowell on Feb. 13

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An Alameda County Superior Court judge has suspended criminal proceeding for the man arrested for a fatal stabbing at Oakland BART platform and ordered a court-appointed doctor to evaluate his mental well-being.

The order comes a week after defense attorney Christina Moore said she doesn't think John Lee Cowell, 28, is mentally able to assist her in preparing for a potential trial for him on murder and attempted murder charges for the stabbing death of 18-year-old Nia Wilson and the stabbing of Letifah Wilson, her 26-year-old sister, at the MacArthur station at 9:36 p.m. on July 22.

Judge James Cramer said there is "substantial evidence" that Cowell is incompetent to stand trial. The court will hear a doctor’s mental health evaluation of Cowell on Feb. 13.

Family members and friends of Nia Wilson who packed the courtroom last week for Cowell's brief hearing audibly groaned when Moore said she believes he's incompetent and five deputies who guarded the courtroom told them to be quiet.

Wilson's mother Alicia Grayson said she doesn't think Cowell is mentally incompetent.

"All white people say they're crazy. He wasn't crazy that night" when the stabbings occurred, Grayson said. "There isn't anything wrong with him."

Cowell is white and Nia Wilson was black.

A month after the stabbing, prosecutors added a special circumstance allegation that Cowell 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.

It had been expected that prosecutors might announce Thursday whether they will seek the death penalty for Cowell, but that decision has been put on hold until his mental competency is determined.

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