The Blotter 3.25.17

This article will appear every few months as a compilation of some of the strangest, funniest and most fascinating things that happen in the world of criminal defense (and crime) across the country.

First, let’s go to Florida – I know – too easy. In March 2017, a Miami defense attorney’s pants actually burst into flames as he started his closing arguments in front of a jury. As if that wasn’t outrageous enough the case was an arson case. Stephen Gutierrez argued that his client’s vehicle spontaneously combusted rather than intentionally sat on fire when smoke began coming out of his pocket. Turns out, it was one of those e-cigarettes – which is probably another lawsuit entirely.

In North Carolina, an attorney got to experience the strong (and wrong) arm of the law first-hand. Jesse Bright works some shifts for Uber to make extra cash, but is actually a full-time criminal defense attorney. He knows that filming interactions with police often makes cases more cut and dry, so when he was pulled over on his Uber shift, he aimed his phone and began recording. One of the officers told him there was a state law forbidding anyone from filming the police. When Bright told him he was wrong, the officer got huffy but seemed to accept it wasn’t a battle he would win upon finding out Bright was an attorney. The moral of the story is – it’s always okay to record your interactions with the police, as long as you are not interfering with their duties or causing harm.

One Houston attorney ended up paying a pretty big price for going off on a racist rant in a professional email. He referred to the defendant on the opposing side, who is of South Asian descent, as a POS, urging them to deport the POS your hero [Trump] has been talking about. He then called him a POS Paki. After getting hit with a sanction motion from opposing counsel, he volunteered to donate $1,800.00 to the South Asian Bar Association – and therefore avoided sanctions.

Most people simply complain of having a headache, but one woman in Nevada is still at large nearly two years after confessing to poisoning her husband’s Lucky Charms because she wasn’t up for having sex. She admitted to putting boric acid in his cereal. She didn’t intend to kill him, but definitely wanted him unable to perform. As an aside, she was in the last stages of earning her American citizenship, so killing him would have been an unsatisfactory side effect. Officials suspect she returned to her native Mexico, but I’m sure her ex keeps all of his food in a vacuum sealed package in case she makes an unwelcome appearance. At least, that’s what I would do.

And of course, Attorney General Jeff Sessions created headlines when he reportedly demanded the resignation of 46 remaining attorneys general. While it is standard practice for attorneys general to move on after a new administration comes in, it is done slowly and allows each department to complete or transfer ongoing investigations so as not to disrupt the judicial process. Bully to that, says Mr. Sessions – seems like things are going to be fully his way or the highway.

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