Naked City

Diaz leaves police panel

Last week defense attorney Tony Diaz resigned his new position with the city's police civilian review panel over concerns that his role as lawyer for yogurt shop murder defendant Michael Scott would be construed as a conflict of interest. The seven members of the panel, which will review citizen complaints against the Austin Police Department along with the still-unnamed police monitor, were named just three weeks ago.

"Apparently, and I don't know who, but there were people who believe that because I represent a man I believe is innocent, Michael Scott, that I can't be an impartial member of the panel," Diaz said. "I felt that rather than create a situation where there would be distress from the get-go, that I'd go ahead and resign." City officials say they have tried to make the panel as neutral as possible. Still, Diaz said he was somewhat surprised by all the hoo-hah ascribed to his appointment. "I feel I was a good choice. In fact, I've represented a number of police officers in the past who've been accused of wrongdoing," he said. "If people really think this is going to prejudice the process I'd better just step down. I want this [panel] to start off on the right foot. I want this thing to work."

In other civilian panel news, City Manager Jesus Garza has yet to appoint a police monitor -- a new position that involves oversight of and cooperation with the civilian panel. Garza named two finalists for the job last month, former Austin City Attorney Iris Jones and current Dallas Assistant City Attorney Chris Wittmayer. Garza originally said that he hoped to name the new monitor before Christmas. "It just hasn't happened yet," said Vanessa Downey-Little, the city's assistant director of human resources, who added that the decision could be made within the next couple of weeks.

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