March 10, 2017 (Fault Lines) — Did Stephen Gutierrez attempt a theatrical stunt during closing arguments for an arson case? Was it a matter of a faulty e-cigarette burning the Miami litigator’s pocket? That question is a matter for discussion, now that Gutierrez literally got caught with his pants on fire during a trial.
According to the Miami Herald, Stephen Gutierrez was in the midst of his summation during an arson case when smoke erupted from his right pocket. One account says Gutierrez was “fiddling” with his pants pocket as his trousers were set ablaze.
Gutierrez rushed out of the courtroom. The jurors were led to a secure location. Once the all-clear was given, Gutierrez returned with a singed pant pocket, a sincere apology, and an insistence the smoke wasn’t a defense stunt gone awry.
If you believe Gutierrez’s story about a bad e-cigarette burning his pants, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. The guy was defending a man accused of intentionally setting his car on fire. Summations are as close to theater as lawyers get. Who’s to say this cat didn’t get an idea in his head to pull a stunt with a smoke device to make his point during closing arguments? Don’t buy into the Miami Herald’s claim that this was the result of an e-cigarette gone wrong. That’s as close to “fake news” as you can get. Most likely Stephen Gutierrez thought of a really cool trick to make an impact during his client’s closing remarks and that trick backfired spectacularly.
Smoke production devices sell for slightly under $100 on magic websites. There’s no reason to believe Stephen Gutierrez didn’t purchase a similar device to add a bit of spectacle to his closing remarks before a Miami-Dade jury. Blaming the burning pants pocket on a faulty E-cigarette is akin to blaming your dog for a bout of flatulence. It works once, but no one believes you afterwards.
It’s not his fault. Lawyers are trained to zealously represent their clients under the adversarial system we all face. If Gutierrez knew about a device that would cause a courtroom clamor and make his closing arguments “surreal,” then it would make sense to use such a device to make an impact for a client.
Unfortunately, Stephen Gutierrez now faces the possibility of contempt of court for his flaming pants stunt. That’s not fair. He was simply attempting to represent his client in the best way he knew how, and there shouldn’t be a penalty for that.
If a bad e-cigarette was the cause of Stephen Gutierrez’s malady, then the maker of that device should be called into court to show cause as to why they should not be penalized for interrupting an arson trial. Those who caused the problem should be held into account!
Unfortunately for Stephen Gutierrez, no Miami lawyer will come across him without uttering the words “Lawyer, Lawyer, Pants on Fire.” He earned the unfortunate moniker, and now he’ll have to live with it.