Lawyer’s Pants Burst Into Flames During Arson Trial

REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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A Florida defense lawyer’s pants burst into flames during closing arguments in an arson prosecution.

The Miami Herald reports that Stephen Gutierrez was arguing in a Miami-Dade courtroom on behalf of his client, Claudy Charles, when smoke began to emerge from one of his pants pockets. Charles was standing trial for second degree arson, after he lit his own car on fire. Gutierrez argued Charles’s car spontaneously combusted, but the jury convicted him nonetheless.

As Gutierrez addressed the jury for the final time during the trial, smoke began to billow out of his pockets, prompting him to rush for an exit, leaving the jury confused and speechless. He made for a nearby public restroom, where he quickly ascertained his e-cigarette had caused the small fire. He tossed the scalding hot e-cigarette battery into the sink and rank water over it. He returned to the courtroom to finish his statement some time later.

“This was not staged,” Gutierrez said. “No one thinks that a battery left in their pocket is somehow going to explode. After careful research, I now know this can happen. I am not the only one this has happened to, but I am in a position to shed light on the situation.”

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, who presided over the trial, may hold Gutierrez in contempt of court.

Gutierrez is a graduate of Florida International University College of Law.

Authorities are investigating the incident.

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