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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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. Mountain Goat

    Doubt that...but who knows?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • J. Kelly

      I hope he doesn't get arrested. Then he will get what he gave. Either way, in or out of jail, his life isn't worth a penny.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. John

    The attorney speaking in this article, might want to get his memory checked, and thinking processes improved.

    Zimmerman has been in contact with Angela Corey, and as the two attorneys that were planning to represent him said, they were never signed on to do it.

    I must be brilliant I guess, but I don't feel like it, I feel like a normal person. Maybe it's all the hype news sources like to put out there to sell the news, omitting facts, tweaking what they leave in, and skipping right over facts they mention as to what they mean. The article, this article, admitted that the 2 attorneys never signed on.... do you understand what this means?

    ???

    April 11, 2012 at 3:44 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff

      lol, agreed!

      April 11, 2012 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  3. Thunder

    Martin is Black
    Zimmerman is Hispanic

    And why are white people are upset???

    April 11, 2012 at 3:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael Vick©™

      Zimmerman is caucasian as Martin is black. Who cares if Zimmerman was German, Jewish, Irish, Australian, or Hispanic? He's white.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. Aukstolis

    Why is twitter considered a reputable means of communication? I'm a 22 year old and even I think it makes people like Toobin and Bernstein look juvenile. If you've got an opinion, voice it like an adult, with your voice.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. John

    For anyone confused, IANAL, but it is easy for anyone at any time to contact a lawyer and consult with them for a fee. That does not mean there is a case for the lawyer to work on, or that he is your lawyer, only that he consulted with you that day and gave you legal advice which you can do whatever you want with it, ignore it, use it, or forget it. That doesn't mean you won a case, or lost it, or that there even is one. From what has been reported so far, there is no case. Until a case is created, there is no case.

    Again, IANAL, but from my understanding, that is how it works.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:58 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. sad puppet

    One previous poster nailed it. Strings are pulled by govt and media to perpetuate class and race division as a means to serve THEIR ends. Disgraceful on their part, and of course ours (for falling for it)

    April 11, 2012 at 4:03 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. sad puppet

    PS We're also looking like knee- jerk jerks with all the rush to judgements when not one of us knows all the facts.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:12 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Just ... wow

      *sigh* Yeah.. trial by media, trial by public.. Why even hire lawyers? So many people willing to pass judgement possessing a bare minimum of facts. Isn't that what your taxes pay the judiciary system for? Give it a chance to do it's job, for crying out loud. I don't know if Zimmerman is guilty or not, but I DO know I don't know a fraction of what the investigators and judiciary involved do - IT'S ONLY SIMPLE COMMON SENSE.
      Stop making this into a racial issue. Americans! It's either racial or political. When is it ever about humans and all their good points and bad???????

      April 11, 2012 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. John

    Zimmerman explained it best:

    According to Uhrig, Zimmerman said, “I don’t have any attorneys, they’re just my legal advisers.”

    April 11, 2012 at 4:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. John

    Jeff Toubin is not the brightest guy to be talking. Every day thousands of people call a lawyer, go in to visit with them, pay a fee to get advice about various issues, possibly a divorce for example, and later decide they don't want the divorce anymore. During that time, they consulted with the attorney, they didn't sign up for anything further, they were interested in their rights, or a plan of action should they decide whatever they decide.

    Jeff though said that Zimmerman doing this, makes him appear to be a lunatic. How so Jeffrey? Explain this.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Bill

    It rubs the lotion on the skin

    April 11, 2012 at 7:02 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jeff Kaplan

    The individual who wrote this article should be fired, lol. These lawyers probably are charging an hourly fee which Zimmerman can't afford. That or Zimmerman doesn't want to be bothered. Their stepping down has NOTHING to do with the Prosecution. Furthermore, there will be NO charges against Zimmerman. I have never seen a more clear cut case in my life. The only reason this is in the news is because the kid was black and african americans are using this, as they do so many things, as a platform to speak out about how a grave injustice has been committed. Get over it. YOU WERE NOT THERE... the police did their job, the end. I wish people would just move on; it is R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S!

    April 11, 2012 at 8:11 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      You're mistaken! If this is a clear cut case of self defense, then our criminal justice system needs an overhaul! Furthermore, you are wrong to assume that this case is in the news because the victim was black! A year ago, four young white men in Mississippi ran over a black man with their truck and murdered him because the victim was black but there was not an uproar from the black community or the type of extensive coverage in the Martin case simply because the authorities in Mississippi did their job by apprehending these criminals and prosecuting them! However, in the Martin case, the authorities in Florida turn the othert cheek and let a murderer and a coward go free because they seem to believe that black lives in American are expendible!

      No, this is not a clear cut case of self defense simply because George Zimmerman's own words alone on the police transcript where he stated that Trayvon was FLEEING, prove that Zimmerman persued and stalked a fleeing and harmless human being! Secondly, Zimmermans inflamatory words on the police transcript alone prove that he was pr-judging and profiling a young man he knew nothing about! And if it is true that Trayvon ran away from Zimmerman and to the back of this house as Zimmerman stated, then how did Zimmerman eventually catch up with Trayvon for a confrontation to ensue? And did Trayvon ran to the back of this house to arm himself with skillets or to escape froma criminal persuing him? Furthermore, on the police transcript regarding records obtained from Martin's cellphone conversation with his girlfriend, Trayvon was heard telling his girlfriend that someone was following him! And when Zimmerman eventually catch up with Trayvon, did he make an attempt to show Trayvon that he was not a hostile person out to harm him? And acording to Trayvon's phone transcript, he was heard asking Zimmerman "WHY are you following me?" What I find outrageous is George Zimmerman and his lawyers have no problem making up stuff and telling the public that Trayvon said this and that to Zimmerman! But why are we yet to hear what was Zimmerman's response to Trayvon when he asked Zimmerman why are you following me? And again, did the older Zimmerman make an attempt to defuse any misunderstanding to show the younger Trayvon that he was not a hostile person out to harm him? Unfortunately not because on the police transcript, it was clear that Zimmerman prejudged and tried Trayvon in his own court of law and persued, stalked and murdered the young Martin in cold blood! You people are pathetic to defend this cold blooded murderer and coward! Let's face it, Zimmerman is a cold blooded murderer and a coward and his day is coming!

      April 11, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chrissy™

    We are just about sick and tired of the colored going wild and rioting every time they don't get their way. They are all just spoiled babies that act like animals.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Harsh

      Yes Chrissy™, thats exactly what the whole thing is about you got it correct, you have displayed amazing comprehension and logical skills, well done. The whole thing is about colored people not getting their way because a guy goes scot free after shooting an unarmed kid, What about the thousands of white guys who are also joining this protest, hmm they must be invisible I guess

      April 11, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      According to CNN poll, nearly 70% of white and 90% of black think Zimmerman should be arrested. This case is not as polarized as you think. You think that way because the 30% is out defending Zimmerman and digging up dirt on Trayvon Martin and posting fake info on the web. But if you see the protests, they consist people of different color, religion, political party, and all walks of life.

      April 11, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Chrissy

    So what if this incident is treated as just another expendible black kid who the legal system don't care about and every black family in Florida or in America for that matter do what the Founding Fathers wished for, and then go out and buy themself a revolver and "stand their ground" and take the frigging law into their own hands? Let's face it, that would lead to another civil war and perhaps the end of this country as we know it! I don't live in Florida, but if I did and Zimmerman was never prosecuted, I'd sure go out and buy me a handgun to protect myself if the law is not going to do its job! Maybe that's what you racist in American are hoping for! I believe the last time we fought a civil war, the Union won and you low life confederates lost!

    April 11, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael Vick©™

      I just have one question. Why do you accept Zimmerman's story at face value? According to public record Zimmerman had criminal record and history of domestic violence. The man was pleaded guilty beating police officer and the domestic violence confirmed that we're dealing with a violent person. According to the police Zimmerman made at least 46 false alarm 911 calls. This proves that he's a trigger happy paranoid lunatic. His story of self defense never adds up with the evidence that begins to surface.

      So I ask you again, why do you believe in Zimmerman's story?

      April 11, 2012 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    And he's not only armed and dangerous but he is also armed, dangerous and on the loose! What a screwed up legal system!

    April 11, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Let me see if I understand Florida's "stand your ground" law! So if I'm driving down the road, minding my own business and all of a sudden, a cop starts following me, do I pull up on the shoulder of the road and start firing because I feel threatened? And if my car breaks down in a predominately white neighborhood and I see two white hippies coming my way, do I start shooting because I feel threatened? And what if I see a car with a confederate flag approaching, do I start shooting? Is that what it means to "stand your ground in Florida?

    April 11, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
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