UPDATE: Judge Hanzman didn't hold Gutierrez in contempt. He reset the case for sixty days while the SAO investigates. The PDs have taken the case over for sentencing.
The Herald article is here.
Hanzman also expressed a healthy contempt (pun intended) for the claim that the pants caught on fire accidentally. But he also indicated that he thought contempt to be a long-shot. This is what a good judge does- not rush to judgment. Lets see what happens in sixty days.
We rise to defend Stephen Gutierrez, Esq.
When last we left the young defender, his pants had caught fire during closing argument in an arson case.
We have no inside knowledge, but it probably was a stunt designed for closing argument.
In the 1970's, young Assistant Public Defenders Roy Black, and Jack Denaro took off their shoes and put their socks on their clients' hands while in court, trying to prevent the prosecution from obtaining fingerprints. They then argued that the prosecution needed a warrant.
Good defense- nay, good lawyering requires disruption. It requires saying NO when everyone in court says "that's the way we've always done it."
Judge John Kastrenakis, when he was a Dade State prosecutor, sat in court during his closing argument and didn't say a word for (approximately) twenty minutes (could have been longer) to show the jury just how long Joyce Cohen delayed calling the police when she discovered her husband Stanely shot.
Clarence Earl Giddeon's petition to the Supreme Court requesting court appointed counsel when he "wasn't entitled to it" was five handwritten pages. He changed criminal law forever.
Criminal defense attorneys have an obligation to be disruptors in defense of their clients.
One of the greatest trial lawyers of the 20th century- Edward Bennett Williams- while defending Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa in a bribery case in DC, in which the jury had eight African-Americans, brought in former black heavyweight champ Joe Louis to warmly greet Hoffa in view of the jury, and then sit behind Hoffa during closing argument.
Miami's own great defense attorney- the Late Richard Sharpstein did a closing argument in federal court wearing an old raincoat, an old hat, and doing an impeccable Colombo imitation.
Some will point out that Gutierrez's "stunt" endangered people in the court. Probably not, but we all know playing with fire is not the safest thing to do. But we'd rather risk a small fire than the conviction of an innocent man.
Our point is this- Gutierrez should not be held in contempt. What he did was NOT designed to undermined the integrity of the court. He was trying to be a disruptor. He was thinking outside of the box. He was dedicated to his client and tried to win. He didn't lie to the court. He didn't steal funds from a trust account. He didn't try and falsify testimony.
All he did was try and do something different to win a case for his client.
Edward Bennett Williams, in that great courtroom in the sky is looking down. And he sees the drones of male and female criminal defense attorneys walking to the podium. Giving jurors a small smile. Thanking them for their service. Summarizing the evidence. Maybe using that Reasonable Doubt chart that falls in and out of favor every few years. And they probably win a few and lose a few.
And then he sees Stephen Gutierrez and says: "I like that kid. He reminds me of myself. He's got guts. Moxie. He's dedicated to his client. He doesn't have a lot of experience, but he has heart and I'll take that every day."
So will we.
Judge Hanzman, do not hold Stephen Gutierrez in contempt. Do not quash creativity. There is another way to resolve this.
Your obt' srvt,
Horace Rumpole, Esq.
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