|Cowart undergoes competency test
Court to decide if hit-and-run driver fit enough to stand trial
The man accused of felony hit-and-run in a crash that killed a popular Sonoma State University professor has undergone an examination to determine if he’s competent to stand trial.
Sonoma County mental health psychologist Steve Ranish conducted a cursory exam of Cowart and was scheduled to make his report at a hearing on Friday, July 20, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Robert Ernest Cowart, 68, told off-duty law enforcement officials on June 8 he had hit Steve Norwick while driving on Petaluma Hill Road earlier that day and didn’t stop because he believed the bicyclist was OK. Norwick died from his injuries 11 days later at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
When he made his first court appearance on June 18, Cowart arrived in the courtroom by wheelchair.
His attorney said he recently had suffered a stroke and was to be examined for aneurysms.
Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Julie Conger suspended criminal proceedings on July 13 after George Boisseau, Cowart’s defense attorney, questioned his client’s mental fitness to stand trial.
Manslaughter charges against Cowart remain a possibility, according to prosecutors. Cowart has been convicted three times of driving under the influence, twice in 1989 and once in 2005.