SAN FRANCISCO—John Lee Cowell, 29, the suspect who stabbed Nia Wilson, 18, and her sister, Letifah, 26, on a BART platform on July 22, 2018, was found guilty on Tuesday, March 10.
The jury took a few hours to deliberate, finding Cowell guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and lying in wait as he watched the sisters, premeditating when to strike.
There were racial undertones present in the cross-examining of Cowell on the stand, including racially motivated incidents that transpired before and immediately following the attack. Cowell was not charged with a hate crime by prosecutors.
Cowell’s attorney, Christina Moore, argued that the incident resulted from her client’s mental illness. As Cowell discussed his reasoning behind the attack during in the trial, he said the girls were “gangsters” and “aliens” who were assaulting his grandmother.
He was previously diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anti-personality disorder. While Moore admitted Cowell committed the crime, he plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
As a result, deliberation continues regarding Cowell’s sanity. If jurors find Cowell to be insane, he will be sent to a psychiatric hospital versus facing a possible life sentence in state prison.
The trial was previously delayed in December 2018 regarding claims that Cowell was not mentally competent to stand trial, but the criminal proceedings were reinstated in July 2019.
Cowell was forcibly removed from the court multiple times during the trial for being disruptive and becoming combative when prosecutor Butch Ford showed records where Cowell claimed he was not taking medication to sway jurors in his favor.
The jury started deliberations to determine Cowell’s sanity onWednesday, March 11.