The preliminary hearing for the October arrest of Isla Vista “Mirror Bus” driver Zachary Coughlin was postponed during his originally scheduled preliminary hearing on Jan. 5, following a new change in defense attorneys.
A hearing to reschedule the preliminary hearing will take place on Jan. 14.
Melissa Fernandez, Coughlin’s previous criminal defense attorney, cited an undisclosed conflict during the Jan. 5 hearing and said she could no longer represent Coughlin in his stalking case from May 2020 and more recent case from October 2020, in which he was charged with 17 felonies, including rape, oral copulation and kidnapping.
Per Fernandez’s request, Philip Capritto, another criminal defense attorney, took over Coughlin’s case during the meeting. Capritto said he would need “at least a month, if not six weeks” to review the evidence of the case and consult with Coughlin due to the change in attorneys.
Von T. Nguyen Deroian, the Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge presiding over both of Coughlin’s cases, placed Capritto and Coughlin in a Zoom breakout room so they could discuss the change in attorneys. After they returned, Coughlin requested to have a Marsden hearing, which allows criminal defendants to represent themselves in court.
“I would like to represent myself in both cases,” said Coughlin, who holds a law degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas that was suspended by the Nevada Supreme Court in 2012 and is currently inactive. “I would like to put on the record the reasons why after a Marsden hearing.”
Deroian cautioned Coughlin against self-representation, noting that he has little criminal law experience, but asked Capritto to provide him with the means to do so.
“Mr. Capritto has just been appointed today and you’re telling me you want to have a Marsden hearing,” Deroian said. “If that’s what you want to do on Jan. 14, Mr. Coughlin, we’ll take it up at that time.”