SAN FRANCISCO—Judge Allan Hymer declared John Lee Cowell, 29, sane when he stabbed Nia Wilson on July 22, 2018, after he took over the decision on Monday, March 16.
Jurors were contemplating Cowell’s sanity since last week Wednesday. After California Governor Gavin Newsom declared that persons over 65 should remain home, Judge Hymner took over the decision to determine Cowell’s mental capacity.
Cowell’s attorney, Christina Moore said “[She was] disappointed that the judge took the case away from the jurors of Alameda County, after they had already been deliberating for days.”
In an interview with KRON 4, prosecutor Butch Ford said the jury had previously been 11-1 in favor of finding Cowell sane before the decision to send jurors home.
Cowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, blaming his attack against Wilson and her sister Letifah on his mental illness. When he testified, Cowell explained how the sisters “wouldn’t give his grandmother back” along with other delusions that the “three black females…would not walk away from me.”
The footage of the attack was shown in court. As Nia, Letifah, and their sister, Tashiya, sat nearby on the BART train, Cowell is seen removing and concealing a knife. He waited until the sisters exited at MacArthur Station before attacking.
The jury found Cowell guilty not only of first-degree murder and attempted murder, but the special circumstance of lying in wait.
With a guilty verdict, Cowell’s fate lied in the second sanity verdict. If he was found to be insane at the time of the crime, Cowell would be sent to a state psychiatric hospital “until a court finds he qualifies for release,” said Judge Hymer.
Cowell will serve a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.