The 27-year-old white man who is accused of stabbing and killing 18-year-old Nia Wilson at a BART train stop in Oakland, Calif., in July will likely not get hit with hate crime charges, but may still get the death penalty.
On Wednesday, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office hit John Lee Cowell with a special circumstance charge of “lying in wait.” The charge qualifies Cowell, a convicted felon, for the death penalty, the East Bay Times reports.
The “lying in wait” charge can be applied to a crime where a suspect watches a victim immediately before a deadly attack on that person. According to the Times, “the particular level of planning is considered greater than premeditation and combines with physically waiting.”
As the Washington Post reports, some including Oakland’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, have called for an investigation into Cowell’s time in federal prison to see if he has any connections to white supremacist gangs, like the Aryan Brotherhood.
The Post reports that Oakland’s elected leaders are “considering changing the legal definition of a racially motivated killing, lowering the threshold of evidence needed to bring such charges.”
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