OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — A unique element of the Nia Wilson murder trial centers on the jury’s freedom to ask witnesses questions.
Each time the defense and prosecution conclude their examinations and cross-examinations of a witness, jurors can ask their own questions before the witness leaves the stand.
One witness who jurors were unable to question was John Cowell himself. That’s because Cowell had to be removed from the courtroom mid-testimony for a profanity-laced rant against Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Butch Ford.
The jury will deliberate twice and deliver two verdicts: The first is over Cowell’s guilt and the second over Cowell’s sanity.
Cowell has already admitted to killing 18-year-old Wilson and stabbing her sister on a BART train in the summer of 2018, because, according to his own testimony, he thought they were “aliens” and “gang members.” So jurors have mostly inquired about mental illness, and not about Cowell’s guilt.
Here are some of the questions that jurors have asked witnesses so far:
Question: How long after using hard core street drugs does withdrawal last?
Doctor’s answer: Withdrawal symptoms and the length of time that they last vary by person. Withdrawal symptoms can include hallucinations and agitation.
Question: What is the difference between a hallucination and a delusion?
Psychiatrist Jeremy Coles’ answer: A hallucination is seeing or hearing something that is not there. A delusion is an idea or belief that something is real or true. The material coming out of the delusion is the hallucination.
Question: Cowell’s grandmother died six years before he killed someone. Could he still have been suffering from an active delusion about his grandmother at the time of the homicide?
Psychiatrist Jeremy Coles’ answer: Yes. A delusion is “crazy” and can happen at any time.
Question: How do you discern whether someone’s behavior is rational, versus, a psychotic episode?
Psychiatrist Jeremy Coles’ answer: When delusions are “overwhelming their thought process.”
Question: Do you have any knowledge whether Cowell was taking medication when he arrived at a hospital on July 12, 2018 (10 days before the homicide)?
Answer from John George Psychiatric Hospital psychiatrist: Cowell told doctors that he had not taken any medication for two weeks.
Question: During the time that you evaluated him in John George Psychiatric Hospital (between July 12-15 2018), did Cowell ever mention his grandmother, his grandmother being kidnapped, or any of his family members being in danger?
Answer from John George Psychiatric Hospital psychiatrist: No.
Question: What effect would Zyprexa have on a non-psychotic person?
Answer from John George Psychiatric Hospital psychiatrist: Brain fog, decreased blood pressure, fatigue, weight gain. “It’s not pleasant,” she said.
Question: Did Cowell want to stay longer at John George Psychiatric Hospital?
Answer from John George Psychiatric Hospital psychiatrist: No. He was no longer psychotic, homicidal, or suicidal. He was not hallucinating or having delusions.
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