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 28-year-old Stephen Gutierrez was fiddling in his pocket Wednesday while addressing jurors when smoke started billowing from his pants. At the time, he was arguing that his client's car spontaneously combusted and wasn't intentionally set on fire.
Gutierrez quickly left the courtroom. Jurors also were escorted out.
When Gutierrez returned unharmed, he insisted it wasn't a staged defense gone wrong.
In a statement Thursday, he said he noticed his pocket felt hot and noticed the heat was coming from a small e-cigarette battery.
"I noticed the heat was intensifying, and left the courtroom as quickly as possible – straight into the bathroom. I was able to toss the battery in water after it singed my pocket open," Gutierrez wrote. "This was not staged. No one thinks that a battery left in their pocket is somehow going to 'explode.'"
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 48-year-old Claudy Charles who was eventually convicted of second-degree arson.
Gutierrez said he did research and found that e-cigarette accessories can be "extremely dangerous." He said he hopes to "shed light on the situation."
"The dangers of these devices, and accessories, have led me to quit using e-cigarette products," he said in the statement.