52ºF

Florida lawyer's pants catch fire while he argues arson case in court

Stephen Gutierrez blames e-cigarette battery

photo

MIAMI – A Miami defense attorney is feeling the heat after his pants caught fire as he delivered closing arguments in an arson case.

Witnesses told the Miami Herald that Stephen Gutierrez, 28, was fiddling in his pocket Wednesday while he addressed jurors when smoke started to billow from his pants. He was arguing that his client's car spontaneously combusted and wasn't intentionally set on fire.

Gutierrez quickly left the courtroom. Jurors were also escorted out.

When Gutierrez returned unharmed, he insisted that it wasn't a staged defense gone wrong. The Herald reported that he blamed a faulty e-cigarette battery.

Miami-Dade police and prosecutors are investigating the incident. Investigators seized frayed e-cigarette batteries as evidence.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman could decide to hold Gutierrez in contempt of court.

Gutierrez represented Claudy Charles, 48, who was subsequently convicted of second-degree arson.