OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The family of a woman stabbed to death on an Oakland BART platform last year announced Friday they are suing the transit agency.
Nia Wilson’s family claims heightened security could have spared her life.
Wilson and her two sisters were at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland last July when a serial fare evader — John Lee Cowell — stabbed her in the neck, killing her.
On August 22, 2018, the family filed a public entity claim against BART. The lawsuit is being filed after BART failed to respond to the family’s public entity claim.
In the lawsuit, “plaintiffs contend that — had BART taken adequate measures to prevent fare evaders from entering BART’s stations, platforms or trains — Nia Wilson would not have died.”
The family now wants BART to implement safety measures and staffing policies intended to reduce or prevent fare evasion and post a crime statistics notice with metrics regarding crime from the last four years at each BART station.
A BART spokesman issued a statement Friday, saying agency officials continue to express their deepest condolences to the friends and family of Wilson, but could not comment on potential or pending litigation.
Last week, prosecutors and defense lawyers were still battling about the mental competency of Cowell.
Alameda County Superior Court James Cramer suspended the legal proceedings against John Lee Cowell, 28, 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.
Dr. Marlin Griffith said in a report submitted to the court on Feb. 13 that he believes Cowell is incompetent to stand trial.
But Dr. John Chamberlin said in a report submitted on March 8 that he was unable to arrive at a conclusion about Cowell’s competency.
Cowell’s lead attorney Christina Moore has said Griffith’s finding is sufficient basis for Cowell to be placed in a state mental institution to get treatment aimed at restoring his competence. If that happens he could still stand trial at a later date at a later date.
However, Alameda County prosecutors want Cramer to appoint a third psychiatrist to examine Cowell.
But Cowell’s attorneys oppose appointing a third psychiatrist and that’s one of the issues that Cramer will rule on at the April 19 hearing.