A brief hearing today resolved issues about how the criminal case against two former San Rafael police officers will move forward after the untimely death of defense attorney Christopher J. Shea last week. The case left off early last week in the middle of the preliminary hearing.
Shea represented Daisy Mazariegos, an ex-cop who is charged with assault under color of authority and making false statements in a crime report for a July 2022 use of force incident. Co-defendant Brandon Nail, also a former officer, faces the same charges and is represented by Julia Fox.
Marin County Superior Court Judge Beth S. Jordan began the hearing by congratulating defendant Mazariegos on the birth of her baby, born yesterday.
The court then turned its attention to whether Mazariegos had selected a new attorney. Alison Berry Wilkinson, an attorney practicing in San Rafael, told the court that Mazariegos had reviewed multiple options. In the end, Mazariegos chose Wilkinson, whose practice centers on representing law enforcement in criminal, civil and administrative proceedings.
“I currently serve as civil defense counsel for both Ms. Mazariegos and Brandon Nail in a federal civil rights litigation arising out of same set of facts,” Wilkinson said.
Julio Jimenez Lopez filed the civil lawsuit against the City of San Rafael, Mazariegos and Nail after suffering great bodily injury in the use of force incident last year.
Wilkinson acknowledged there is a potential for conflict of interest because she is representing both defendants in the civil case. While Nail consulted independent counsel regarding the potential for conflict, Mazariegos did not. Both ultimately signed waivers allowing Wilkinson to continue to handle the civil case and also represent Mazariegos in the criminal proceedings.
Assistant district attorney Geoff Iida stated that he had a greater concern for Nail with the potential for conflict. At this time, Mazariegos and Nail appear to have the same criminal defense strategy, however that could change. Mazariegos could decide to point the finger at Nail for the alleged offenses.
“His [Nail’s] current civil attorney is in a position to advance a defense to shift responsibility to Mr. Nail,” Iida said. “If he goes in eyes wide open, we can proceed.”
The judge verified that Nail understood he is giving up rights to later claims of inadequate representation. Nail’s criminal attorney, Fox, also stated that she had no objections.
With the conflict of interest matter resolved, it was then determined that Wilkinson will need time to review the criminal case files before the preliminary hearing resumes.
“I attended the two days of the [preliminary] hearing,” Wilkinson said. “But I was focused on monitoring testimony, not questioning witnesses.
The hearing concluded with Iida sharing a story about working with Shea, who was a Marin County prosecutor for more than a decade before becoming a defense attorney. Iida, fresh on the job, told Shea that he had just encountered a new legal issue in a case he was working on. Shea, according to Iida, told him not to worry about it. A few hours later, Shea delivered a legal brief to Iida to help him with the case.
“Chris had a big personality, was loud and very confident, Iida said. “He was also generous with his time with new attorneys.”
On Oct. 23, the court will determine the date for the preliminary hearing to resume.