Thursday, July 30, 2015
Cristina Gutierrez Was Involved in 4 1st Degree Murder Cases in 4 Different Jurisdictions in 1999/2000
Yesterday, I posted an entry about how Cristina Gutierrez was involved in three first-degree murder cases in three different jurisdictions at the same time in 1999/2000: (1) Adnan Syed/Maryland; (2) Zachary Witman/Pennsylvania; and (3) Hector Oscar Acosta-Martinez/Puerto Rico & Federal. I expressed surprise at Gutierrez's simultaneous involvement in these cases and wondered when, if ever, an attorney had been involved in three first-degree murder cases in three different jurisdictions at the same.
As a helpful reader pointed out, Gutierrez was actually involved in four first-degree murder cases in four different jurisdictions at the same time.
On July 2, 1992, Levi Pace was indicted for capital murder based upon the shooting death of Jerry Hargrove in December 1991. Pace was later convicted of murder and given the death penalty largely based upon the testimony of his alleged accomplice. In 1996, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama reversed his conviction, finding that discrimination existed in the selection of grand jury forepersons who were chosen by the judge who presided over grand jury selection on the advice of the district attorney's office.*
Pace was subsequently re-indicted for capital murder in 1998 and appointed counsel. Pace, however, wanted Cristina Gutierrez to be added to his team and replace his appointed counsel if necessary. According to the Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama in Ex parte Pace, 761 So.2d 1006 (Ala.Crim.App. 2000), "this Court decides Mr. Pace should be forced to choose between Ms. Gutierrez and appointed counsel, Mr. Pace's clear preference would be to replace appointed counsel J. Timothy Kyle with Ms. Gutierrez....”
This opinion, issued on February 10, 2000, dealt with whether the court would allow Gutierrez, a Maryland attorney, to represent Pace in Alabama pro hac vice. The trial judge had refused to allow Gutierrez to represent Pace, concluding as follows:
I read some of the articles that were attached to her resume, particularly the one with regard to her prior theft conviction and her lying to the bar association. That was primarily reason number one. I know she was ultimately admitted. She was admitted and then it came up and she was brought up on charges I believe as I recall it, and it just didn't sit well with me. Frankly I didn't think she could bring to this case any help to Mr. Pace, and I just investigated what my duty and responsibility was in the case and found that it was discretionary. I looked for some basis that would, you know, what I was required to do to avoid an abuse of discretion and felt like that I was within the discretionary bounds in making the call that I made and I made it and I'm going to stand by it.
I'm assuming that the article referenced by the judge was this one, and it also formed the basis for the appellate court to affirm the trial judge's ruling:
The exhibits filed with the State's answer reflect that Gutierrez had previously failed to disclose on a law school application and an application for a law-clerk position that she had been convicted, under a different name, of shoplifting. After this information was disclosed to the Maryland Bar Association, the Bar Character Committee voted 4 to 3 to admit her to practice law. (This information was detailed in an article about Gutierrez that appeared in a Maryland newspaper. Gutierrez attached this article to her pro hac vice application.).
Pace later appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court of Alabama, which reversed and allowed Gutierrez to represent him. According to the court,
Ms. Gutierrez is a member in good standing with the Maryland State Bar, and she has been admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, before several federal trial and appellate courts, and in several state courts pro hac vice. Ms. Gutierrez has never been subject to disciplinary or disbarment proceedings, and she has agreed in writing to abide by the provisions of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Chief Justice dissented, concluding that
Evidence that Ms. Gutierrez had lied about a shoplifting conviction, on both an application to law school and an application for a clerkship, gave the trial judge ample reason to deny her application.
I don't know whether Gutierrez actually did represent Pace and/or how much work Gutierrez put into the case/her application from 1998-2000. The Supreme Court of Alabama's opinion was issued on August 4, 2000, and Gutierrez was soon thereafter hospitalized for three months in December, followed soon thereafter by her disbarment.
Pace was eventually convicted of murder again and given life imprisonment. He filed a subsequent appeal, again primarily claiming jury bias and misconduct, but his conviction was eventually upheld
*During the appeal, it was uncovered that no African-American had ever served as a foreperson for a grand jury in Morgan County since its first grand jury proceeding in 1927.