April 10th, 2012
07:19 PM ET

Toobin: Lawyers' 'bizarre' announcement no help to Zimmerman

Tuesday's announcement by two lawyers that they're no longer representing George Zimmerman was a "bizarre episode" that might prompt a special prosecutor to move up her decision on whether to arrest him, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.

The special prosecutor is trying to determine whether to charge the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer, who claimed he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February in self-defense.

“That was certainly one of the wackiest news conferences I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman. The attorneys said that they still believe Zimmerman's self-defense claim, but that they can't represent him because Zimmerman hasn't answered their messages since Sunday.

"I think they are obviously concerned about his well-being, but they are also, I think, potentially setting him up for an earlier arrest than they might have, because one of the reasons a prosecutor doesn't arrest someone right away is that the prosecutor is assured by the counsel that, 'Look, he'll surrender. He's not going anywhere,' " Toobin said. "At this point the lawyers don't know what he's doing, don't know where he is, and the prosecutor may say, ‘Look, I’d better arrest this person or he's going to be in the wind.’

"So I think this bizarre episode might accelerate the prosecutor's timetable if, in fact, she's going to arrest him.”

Police say Zimmerman fatally shot Martin, who was African-American, on February 26 in Sanford, Florida, as Martin was walking home from a convenience store. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, had called 911 to complain about a suspicious person in the neighborhood.

Zimmerman told Sanford police the shooting was self-defense, and Zimmerman was released without charges. Authorities have said Zimmerman was not immediately charged because there were no grounds, at the outset, to disprove his account that he'd acted to protect himself.

But thousands have converged on Sanford to join in protests calling for Zimmerman's arrest and criticizing the police department's handling of the case, and a special prosecutor in Florida is investigating the case.

Toobin said he found it troubling that Uhrig and Sonner felt obliged to withdraw from the case so publicly.

"They make their client look like a lunatic, and they could have communicated this information to the prosecutor who, after all, is the most important person here," Toobin said. "I don't think they did George Zimmerman a great service by spelling this out in such extraordinary detail when they could have simply just gone into the prosecutor and said, ‘Hey, look, we don't represent this guy anymore.’ So I think that's a troubling question of legal ethics on their part."

Toobin said attorneys are not obliged to participate with clients who are actively ignoring their advice or refusing to be in contact with them. And he noted that the attorneys had not entered a notice of appearance that officially would have made them Zimmerman's attorneys in the case.

"But the real issue, it seems to me, is where is he? Because that's going to be something that the prosecutor is very concerned about," Toobin said. "She needs to know that if she wants to proceed with an arrest, she can find the guy. And the lawyers are quite clearly making the representation that they don't know where he is."

Sonner, who said he and Uhrig would resume representing Zimmerman if Zimmerman asked, said that he is "reasonably sure" that he knows where Zimmerman is, and that he was in the United States.

Legal analyst Sunny Hostin told CNN that she agreed with Toobin that the prosecutor will be concerned about where Zimmerman is. But she said that the lawyers' revelation Tuesday that the prosecutor hasn't yet interviewed Zimmerman may mean that no decision on charges will happen in the near future.

Toobin and B.J. Bernstein, who also is a legal commenter for CNN and HLN, took to social media to express their disbelief at how the news conference was handled.

soundoff (642 Responses)
  1. Michael Vick©™

    Hey mountain goat, what happens if Zimmerman is convicted? You still want cnn to apologize to you white supremacy racists?

    April 11, 2012 at 12:55 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • cnndoug

      DURHAM, N.C. – One day after North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed criminal charges against three former members of the men's lacrosse team, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong issued an apology Thursday for his handling of the case. "It is my sincere desire that the actions of Attorney General Cooper will serve to remedy any remaining injury that has resulted from these cases," Nifong said in a statement. "I also understand that whenever someone has been wrongly accused, the harm caused by the accusations might not be immediately undone merely by dismissing them."

      April 11, 2012 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. Brian Ritchey

    "The lawyers are simply covering their butts."..............................A lawyer's butt is between his ears.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:55 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. cnndoug

    Police describe Martin's height as 6'0" and weight as 160 pounds; and Zimmerman as 5'9" 170.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael Vick©™

      According to Wikipedia which got the stats from reliable sources, Zimmerman was 5'9" and 250lb, and Martin was 6'3" and 140lb. Racists always try to make Zimmerman taller and lighter, and Martin shorter and heavier. The stats you posted were fake. I already caught so many people posting fake information. Few weeks ago I caught someone saying Martin was hitting Zimmerman with 23oz can of ice tea. Also Martin was suspended for doing drugs, when in fact he was caught with residual of substance used by cnndoug's favorite president George W Bush. Then some racist posted that Martin was suspended 5 times, but the real number was 3: once for graffiti which was a very violent crime, and once for having residual of George W Bush's favorite weed. Then there were racists making up story about the boy who walked the dog, who turned out to have seen very little, and had to hire a lawyer to question the police.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mountain Goat

    Vick, he won't be arrested.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. ThinkAgain

    "Mountain Goat": Insulting to both mountains and goats.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:58 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mountain Goat

    You can whine all you want, but you guys are flat out wrong on this one. Sucks to be you.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    @Jeffrey Toobin
    OK...it's bizarre. Why don't you serve as Zimmy's legal counsel. CNN will pay you well, and even offer a handsome retainer fee. You gotta admit. Mow that is F'n BIZARRE!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Michael Vick©™

    Mountain Goat: Zimmerman will be arrested. I guarantee it. If he didn't disappear from his lawyers, then maybe I will give Angela Corey 50/50 chance of indicting Zimmerman. But after his lawyers threw him under the bus, it's going to be a no-brainer for Angela Corey.

    You also ignored the fact that Zimmerman spoke to the prosecutor against the lawyer's advice. My educated guess is that he found out there was a piece of evidence so overwhelming that his self defense story would crumble. So Zimmerman bailed and his lawyers had to protect themselves from being held accountable for Zimmerman's escape.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. 1rooster

    I bet Zimmerman feels like a run-a-away slave. TOUGH HA'

    April 11, 2012 at 1:02 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Mountain Goat

    Vick, what part of "dismissing" his lawyers is evading your logic? Of course he's not doing what they say, that's why they are not his lawyers now.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:05 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael Vick©™

      You should get some real education because your reading and listening comprehension is F grade. There was no mentioning of Zimmerman dismissing his lawyers. You made that up. His lawyers said they were not able to reach him. There is a huge difference between the fact and the fake stuff you made. It's almost like some idiot saying he doesn't want to go to Harvard University when in fact he got rejected by Harvard. There is a big difference.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    I'm sorry Jeff, I'm overtired...gotta get to bed...I'm losing it, if lost it.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:06 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    I'm sorry Jeff, I'm overtired...gotta get to bed...I'm losing it, if not.. lost it.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:06 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. rell69

    Zimmerman doesnt have to flee because he isnt going to be charged with a crime. He wont be charged because their isnt enough evidence to show he commited a crime. Self defense is still legal, desptie the efforts of liberals, and there is no evidence it was not self defense.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Mountain Goat

    Vick, he's not on the run. He stays in contact with police. They know where he is.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael Vick©™

      And you know all this because you wiretapped into the police's phone?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ching Chong

    Can't we forget about this whole thing and collectively focus on dissing the failure in chief Obama.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:09 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mountain Goat

      Yes we could do that...but there is soooo much to cover!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
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