A man with a history of mental illness was ordered today to stand trial on murder charges for allegedly fatally stabbing his roommate at a housing facility for veterans in Alameda more than three years ago.At the end of a preliminary hearing that met sporadically over a period of many months, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Delbert Gee ordered 49-year-old Kanuri Qawi, who’s being held in custody in lieu of $2 million bail, to return to court on Jan. 22 to have a trial date set. Qawi is accused of murdering 59-year-old John Laird Milton Sr.Authorities found Milton’s body on Sept. 13, 2006, in the home he shared with Qawi at Moonlight Terrace at Dignity Commons, a housing facility for veterans at Alameda Point, which is the site of the former Alameda Naval Air Station.Milton’s body was left in a bedroom to rot for nearly a week before authorities discovered it.Alameda County Chief Deputy District Attorney Tom Rogers said that at one point after Qawi was arrested he was found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial but he has now been found competent. Qawi was sentenced to prison in 1991 for assault and battery for an unprovoked attack on a couple in Oakland. When his parole ended in 1997 he remained hospitalized for a series of one-year commitments under a state laws that allows for the institutionalization of released convicts who are mentally ill and deemed to be a danger.But Qawi challenged his incarceration and being incarcerated against his will.His case led the California Supreme Court to rule in January 2004 that mentally ill former prisoners held in state hospitals after serving their sentences have the right to refuse psychiatric medication unless they are incompetent or dangerous.Qawi was eventually released from Napa State Hospital in 2005.His lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Kathy Ryals, declined to comment on his case today.
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