How The System Failed The Woman He Murdered

nia wilson memorial macarthur station
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
November 23, 2022

Oakland police arrested John Cowell for stabbing Nia Wilson to death, stating, “Up to this point, we do not have any information that suggests it is race-motivated.” 

But these facts about Cowell cannot be ignored.

A few months before the murder, Cowell was released from a maximum-security facility built for those suffering from mental illness. Cowell, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, testified in court he “thought [Nia and her] sisters were aliens and part of a gang that had kidnapped his grandmother.” His lawyer supported his pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

The DA tried striking from the record that Cowell’s part of the Peckerwood gang— a white supremacist prison gang. There was also speculation that Cowell attacked Nia because a Black woman allegedly attacked him a week prior.

Cowell was sentenced to life after surveillance footage proved he was coherent while murdering Nia. But true justice would be if Nia was never attacked in the first place.

Justice would be long-term systems of care supporting people with disabilities. Nia’s blood is on the facility that released Cowell knowing he posed a danger to others.

When anti-Blackness weaponizes the disabled to fit its agenda, everyone is harmed, especially Black people.

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