EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Departure of a Named Partner From Cristina Gutierrez's Law Firm in Fall 1999

I've started preparing a draft for the "Cristina Gutierrez" episode of the Undisclosed Podcast. In doing so, I stumbled upon something interesting but not important enough to include in the episode (I think). Here's a discovery letter, sent by Gutierrez on September 7, 1999. As you can see, the name of the law firm at the time is Redmond, Burgin & Gutierrez, P.A., indicating the three named partners at the firm. Next, here's Adnan's alibi notice, submitted less than a month later, on October 4, 1999. Now, the name of the law firm is Redmond & Gutierrez, P.A. Burgin is still listed as an attorney, but he's no longer a named partner.

Finally, here's the top of a letter dated November 24, 1999, in which Gutierrez is sending Mr. S's polygraph results to an expert:

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 4.55.13 PM

So, now, about a month and a half later, Burgin is no longer working at the law firm, and a new attorney has been hired. 

I don't think that this has any huge bearing on Adnan's case, but I'm always interested in getting as much context as possible. Burgin was a named partner when Gutierrez joined the law firm in 1995 and one of only six attorneys at the firm. It's not an insignificant thing for a named partner to leave a firm, especially a firm this small. I have little doubt that Gutierrez was spending a good deal of time in the fall of 1999 on the departure of Burgin* and the hiring of his replacement. What I don't know is whether Burgin had any role in Adnan's case and whether his departure might have had any direct or indirect effect on its outcome. 



*For example, the departure could have meant that Gutierrez was picking up new clients/work from Burgin. It also could have meant that Gutierrez was working hard to keep clients who had a good working relationship with Burgin.


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Do we know if he started his own firm or joined another? I visited his current firm's site but I couldn't find any links to a bio.

Posted by: Sam | Oct 23, 2015 2:52:50 PM

Based on her practices, I would also jump ship.

Posted by: anon | Oct 23, 2015 3:19:10 PM

Every little detail is important I believe Colin and could be just the detail to blow this case wide open (if that is possible after all of the hard work and effort being given on so many levels and by so many people). Has anyone contacted the partner in question? I know many of CG cohort are reluctant to discuss but perhaps this partner could shed some light????

Posted by: Eryn | Oct 23, 2015 5:25:16 PM

I am interested to know if Burgin left because of Gutierrez. what is the protocol among lawyers regarding discussing former cases? I know there's certain things that fall under attorney-client privilege, but I have been very curious about the clerks and students who worked under Gutierrez during Adnan's case. would they be able to speak to what she was thinking during the time? Gutierrez is such a cipher in so many ways. Can't wait to hear the episode about her!

Posted by: sasha | Oct 23, 2015 5:34:39 PM

Sam: It looks like he joined another firm.

anon: It looks like her other partner picked another option.

Eryn: Good point. We can't contact any of these people because they're potential witnesses, and there are confidentiality issues.

Sasha: Yeah, there are confidentiality issues.

Posted by: Colin | Oct 23, 2015 6:16:05 PM

Why was Urick being such a you know what about the pictures and why didn't the judge intercede if the defense had the right to view them? If he really had such a strong case it shouldn't have been a big deal

Posted by: Cathy my real name | Oct 24, 2015 7:22:44 AM

Not sure why you opine that "I don't think that this has any huge bearing on Adnan's case." The departure of a named partner from a small firm is often a highly destabilizing event. Ms. Gutierrez additionally was struggling with health issues, and perhaps other issues that impaired her performance as legal counsel. BTW, I first heard Ms. Gutierrez's voice on the Serial Podcast, which I listened to with my son, who is not a lawyer. He described her vocal demeanor as comical if not so annoying. I had to concede the point; it's an aspect of her courtroom performance that you can't assess from the written record.

Posted by: Nathan Schachtman | Oct 24, 2015 4:06:12 PM

Hey Colin,

Unrelated, but could you post the notes in which it's mentioned Adnan talked to Bilal at the mosque so that Seamus_duncan will shutthefuckup about it?

Posted by: Dragga | Oct 24, 2015 7:18:09 PM

Cathy: I think the lividity evidence explains everything.

Nathan: I don't mean to underplay the departure of the named partner. I'm sure that his departure had all of the negative consequences that such a departure normally causes. I'm just saying that I have no reason at this point to believe that there was anything beyond these normal negative consequences.

Dragga: They will be posted this week. They're nothing special...just the notes for Adnan's prayer leading the next night.

Posted by: Colin | Oct 25, 2015 3:14:04 AM

Prof., this is a bit off topic but I'd love to get your opinion. There's been quite a bit of discussion on reddit about how long the legal process for Adnan's case will continue. Some people who claim legal credentials have suggested that even in a best case scenario for Adnan, with the Court ruling favorably, the state could and would drag this out for years before he could be released. Do you believe that's an accurate assessment? Thanks.

Posted by: francis | Oct 26, 2015 7:44:56 AM

Colin - Do you seriously think Gutierrez carried her weight with management responsibilities? Based on what I've read, it seems likely she would work hard to retain clients and waste time chasing clients who left with Burgin and creating drama. Do you really see her in the trenches on new hires and structure and other firm business?

Posted by: boo | Oct 26, 2015 8:38:20 AM

Colin, I'm just quoting you from Twitter "bigger". Is this something we, the listeners, can figure out based on everything that has been disclosed to date? Or will it be like the reply brief from J.B.? Overwhelming surprise?

Posted by: Amara | Oct 26, 2015 1:55:28 PM

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