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Miami Lawyer's Pants Literally Catch Fire During an Arson Trial

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 10, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lawyer, lawyer, pants on fire!

For real. You can't make this stuff up.

A Miami lawyer's pants literally caught fire in the middle of his closing argument on behalf of a client who was charged with arson. Attorney Stephen Guitierrez noticed that his pocket felt hot, and then saw smoke coming out. He exited quickly, stage right.

"I noticed the heat was intensifying and left the courtroom as quickly as possible -- straight into the bathroom," he told the ABA Journal.

Not Staged, I Swear

Everybody in the courtroom was perplexed, until Gutierrez came back and explained what happened. He had an e-cigarette in his pocket, and the batteries had started to explode.

"This was not staged," Gutierrez said. "No one thinks that a battery left in their pocket is somehow going to explode."

It could have been a good defense demonstration because the defendant was on trial for intentionally setting his car on fire, and the defense claimed the car spontaneously combusted.

The jury didn't buy it, though, and convicted Claudy Charles, 48, of second-degree arson. To some in the courtroom, the smoking pants defense was not even funny.

"A lot of people could have been hurt," an observer in court told the Miami Herald.

Would You Believe, I Smoke?

The trial is over but the case is not closed for Gutierrez. According to the local newspaper, Judge Michael Hanzman could hold him in contempt of court.

For now, Gutierrez seems to be basking in the warmth of his first high-profile case. The 28-year-old lawyer has been practicing law only a year and he's already smoking.

The Herald called it "Hot News," and the New York Post said "the suspect wasn't the only one under fire." A local television station aired the story and it spread like, well, wild-fire?

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