Cristina Gutierrez

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Cristina Gutierrez
Maria Cristina Gutierrez 1988.JPG
Maria Cristina Gutierrez

February 28, 1951
DiedJanuary 30, 2004(2004-01-30) (aged 52)
CitizenshipUnited States of America
OccupationCriminal defense attorney
Known forHigh-profile defense attorney
  • Roberto Gutierrez
  • Micajuela Gutierrez

Maria Cristina Gutierrez (February 28, 1951 – January 30, 2004) was an American criminal defense attorney based in Baltimore, Maryland, who represented several high-profile defendants in the 1990s[1] and was the first Hispanic woman to be counsel of record in a case before the Supreme Court of the United States.[2]

She was the initial trial attorney for Adnan Syed, the Baltimore-area teenager who was convicted in 2000 of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee in 1999. He was sentenced to life in prison. The controversial murder trial and conviction gained renewed national attention in 2014 and 2015 after being the subject of the first seasons of the podcasts Serial and secondly, Undisclosed.


Gutierrez attended high school at Notre Dame Prep in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her undergraduate degree from Antioch College and her juris doctor from the University of Baltimore School of Law. She was appointed as an attorney to the Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore and later joined the firm of Murphy and Associates, headed by William H. Murphy, Jr., former judge of the Baltimore City Circuit court.

Legal career[edit]

Gutierrez graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1980 and began her career with the Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore after a brief clerkship with then Judge William H. Murphy, Jr.[1] After several years she left the PD's office and joined the firm of William H. Murphy, Jr. and Associates. By most accounts, Gutierrez was a tenacious attorney, representing many individuals who appeared to have hopeless cases.[3] In 1990 Jamal Craig, an employee of his mother's day-care facility in Howard County, was charged with child abuse. Gutierrez represented Craig, and he was acquitted of all charges.[3] His mother, Sandra Craig, had also been charged with child abuse. Gutierrez joined her trial team; the case Maryland v. Craig went to the [[Supreme Court of the United States] on appeal].

Gutierrez represented a female Baltimore police officer who was accused of first-degree murder after shooting her husband six times. Gutierrez developed a "battered spouse syndrome" defense and her client was convicted only of the lesser second-degree murder charge.[4]

Gutierrez also represented Jacqueline Bouknight, a Baltimore woman who had been held for seven years on a contempt of court order for not revealing the whereabouts of her son to state social services officials. They suspected that the child had been killed but no homicide charges were ever filed.[5]

In 1993 Gutierrez was made a partner in the firm, and its name was changed to Murphy and Gutierrez. Murphy and Gutierrez split amicably in 1995[6] and Gutierrez eventually opened a solo practice.

Representation of Adnan Syed[edit]

On February 9, 1999, the body of Hae Min Lee (Korean이해민), an 18-year-old student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, Maryland, was found in Leakin Park.[7] Lee's ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested on February 28, 1999 and charged with first-degree murder.[8] His family retained Gutierrez to represent their son. Syed's first trial ended in a mistrial, when Judge William Quarles called Gutierrez a "liar" in earshot of the jury. After a six-week second trial, Syed was found guilty of Lee's murder on February 25, 2000[9] and sentenced to life in prison, although he continued to maintain his innocence.[10]

Syed's new attorney, C. Justin Brown, has appealed the case on the basis of mistakes made by Gutierrez prior to and during the trial. Brown says that Gutierrez failed to interview several alibi witnesses, including Asia McClain, who was with Syed at the time Lee was killed.[11]

In February 2015, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals filed a decision allowing Syed to appeal his conviction on multiple grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel by Gutierrez.[12][13][14]

On November 6, 2015, ″Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Martin Welch ordered that Syed's post-conviction proceedings would be re-opened ′in the interests of justice for all parties.′″ [15] Following a February 2016 hearing, during which Asia McClain and colleagues and friends of Gutierrez testified, Judge Welch granted Syed's request for a new trial on June 30, 2016, ruling that Gutierrez "rendered ineffective assistance when she failed to cross-examine the state's expert regarding the reliability of cell tower location evidence," and vacated Syed's conviction.[16][17]


On May 24, 2001, the Maryland Court of Appeals announced Gutierrez had been disbarred (by consent).[4] Gutierrez had agreed to the disbarment, citing numerous health problems including multiple sclerosis (MS). Voluntary disbarment meant the Attorney Grievance Commission dropped investigation into about a dozen client complaints that they had paid for work which she had not completed.[4] The Maryland Clients' Security Trust Fund manages reimbursements for victims of lawyer misconduct and, by mid-July, they received a record-breaking number of claims from Gutierrez' former clients.[18]


According to her son Roberto, Gutierrez had begun suffering the effects of MS in 1999, complicated by diabetes. She started to lose her vision and memory. By 2003, she was using a wheelchair and couldn't remember her son's name.[2] She died on January 30, 2004 in Towson, Maryland, after suffering a heart attack.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Sentementes, Gus (January 31, 2004). "Maria C. Gutierrez, 52, criminal defense lawyer". Baltimore Sun.
  2. ^ a b "Son of 'Serial' subject's lawyer defends mother". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2015-08-27.
  3. ^ a b "A bulldog tenacity in the courtroom". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2015-08-28.
  4. ^ a b c "Lawyer Gutierrez agrees to disbarment". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2015-08-27.
  5. ^ Bouknight, Jacqueline (1995-10-31). "Obscured by fuss of Bouknight case / Little boy lost: The legal questions in the case of Jacqueline Bouknight threaten to obscure the small boy whose whereabouts she has refused to reveal for seven years". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
  6. ^ "High-profile lawyers break partnership in 'amicable' split". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2015-08-28.
  7. ^ "Information sought on woman missing". The Baltimore Sun. February 4, 1999. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  8. ^ Oakes, Amy (March 1, 1999). "Ex-boyfriend is charged in teen's killing". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  9. ^ Francke, Caitlin (February 26, 2000). "Jury finds teen guilty of killing ex-girlfriend". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  10. ^ Francke, Caitlin (June 7, 2000). "19-year-old gets life sentence for killing former girlfriend". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  11. ^ Linderman, Juliet (November 30, 2014). "Case Highlighted In 'Serial' Moves Through Appeals Process". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  12. ^ Winter, Michael (23 March 2015). "'Serial' subject blames lawyer in new appeal". USA Today. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  13. ^ Phillip, Abby (7 February 2015). "Md. court allows Adnan Syed to appeal his conviction in Serial case". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  14. ^ "Decision of the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, September Term, 2013 No. 2519" (PDF). The Undisclosed Wiki. 2015-02-06. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  15. ^ Izadi, Elahe (6 November 2015). "Judge reopens 'Serial' case, allowing Adnan Syed to introduce new evidence". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  16. ^ Justin Fenton; Justin George (June 30, 2016). "Conviction vacated, new trial granted for Adnan Syed of "Serial"". Baltimore Sun.
  17. ^ Welch, Martin (2016-06-30). "Memorandum Opinion II. In the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Petition No. 10432" (PDF). The Undisclosed Wiki.
  18. ^ Koenig, Sarah (2001-07-19). "Attorney is drawing numerous complaints". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2018-11-05.