A Miami lawyer defending a man accused of arson abruptly ran out of the courtroom Feb. 8 just after he began closing arguments because his pants were on fire.
Strangely, defense attorney Stephen Gutierrez, 28, was making an argument that his client’s car had spontaneously combusted when that very thing happened in his pants due to an e-cigarette in his front pocket, the Miami Herald reported.
“He rushed out of the Miami courtroom, leaving spectators stunned. After jurors were ushered out, Gutierrez returned unharmed, with a singed pocket, and insisted it wasn’t a staged defense demonstration gone wrong,” the Miami Herald reported, citing observers at the trial.
Mr. Gutierrez blamed the incident on a defective battery in the e-cigarette, witnesses told the Herald, with one of them calling the scene “surreal.”
Miami-Dade police are investigating the incident. According to the Miami Herald, authorities seized “several frayed e-cigarette batteries” as evidence. Mr. Gutierrez insisted that the accident wasn’t staged. If investigators find that the e-cigarette fire was intentional, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman could hold Mr. Gutierrez in contempt of court.
Mr. Gutierrez was defending a local man accused of setting his car on fire. He was arguing that the vehicle has spontaneously combusted when his pants began to flame and smoke. Despite the incident, jurors found the defendant guilty of second-degree arson.
Most e-cigarettes and other electronic vaping devices are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. These powerful batteries are prone to explode if manufactured poorly, used improperly, or damaged. Hospitals and burn centers throughout Florida and the rest of the U.S. have seen a surge in burns and other injuries caused by e-cigarette battery malfunctions, including one Naples man who was left in a coma after his device exploded in his mouth last year.
Source: Miami Herald