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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

[tweet https://twitter.com/JeffreyToobin/status/189818448392617986%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/JeffreyToobin/status/189824036849725442%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/bjbernstein/status/189817102541127680%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/bjbernstein/status/189821397365829632%5D

soundoff (642 Responses)
  1. Michael Vick©™

    Can anyone care to explain how Zimmerman got blindsided with punches? According to Zimmerman, Martin approached him and asked "Do you have a problem?", then Zimmerman answered no. Then Martin said "You have one now". How could anyone get blindsided at that point? Did Zimmerman decide to turn his back after that conversation? You see, he couldn't even get his fake story straight.

    April 11, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Nodack

      You weren't there. Make up whatever you want just like millions of others before you that claim to know everything without actually knowing anything.

      Thanks for playing.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    What we know for sure is what is said on the police transcript and nothing else! For example, the released police transcript of Zimmerman's conversation with the police at the onset of the tragedy involves comments by Zimmerman that are very harsh and hostile towards Trayvon! The second transcript are perhaps even more critical and I believe sufficient enough to try, convict and execute Zimmerman for cold blooded murder and that transcript involves the telephone conversation Trayvon was having with his girlfriend before he was fatally shot! And in that conversation, what we do know is that after Zimmerman caught up with Trayvon, Trayvon asked him a simple question, "WHY are you following me?" And at no point in that telephone transcript was Trayvon ever heard making any hostile or threatening remarks towards Zimmerman! And the only response from Zimmerman to Trayvon's question was a fatal sunshot! All the other stuff Zimmerman alleged Trayvon said to him are false stuff he made up to save his coward hide!

    April 11, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Thank you for trying, convicting, and sentencing this guy based on all the facts you've seen on TV and your years of trial experience. We need more people like you to just round up suspected bad guys and send them off to the gas chambers - no trial or due process necessary. What a hero you are.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allen

      There is no transcript of this conversation with his girlfriend. This is all hearsay. Said by the girlfriend days later...Sheesh are you gullible.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. fredrick

    Zimmerman said "there a guy in a gray sweater, and he's black." Zimmerman should've never made that comment let alone do what he did.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • sawitcoming

      There's nothing the matter with giving identifying information to the police. If you're attacked for instance, just saying some guy in a red sweater attacked me isn't a lot to go on. Height, weight, skin color, build, etc. are important. So it's not just talking about someone being black or whatever that makes it racist. It's the whole context.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • highland

      You are wrong. The tape was edited by NBC to create news. This was admitted by NBC. Get your so called facts straight. But you won't, just pick and chose what you want. I don't know if Zimmerman is guilty or inocent, let the court find the facts. The jury is "the finder of fact".

      April 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikeyZ

      That fabrication was so "two weeks ago", when MSNBC doctored the tape. Have you not been paying attention?

      April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allen

      You really don't know what is going on do you? Zimmerman never said that. The news as already said they edited the call to sound that way. Zimmerman was answering the 911 dispatcher's question. This is all a dog and pony show to appease people like yourself who don't know anything...

      April 11, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      If you could read you would know that when asked by the dispatcher if he was white, black or Hispanic Zimmerman responded, '"he looks black"

      April 12, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Nodack

      So it's against the law to answer the police when they ask what race the guy is and what he is wearing?


      April 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Michael Vick©™

    It's too bad Mountain Goat wouldn't put the money where his mouth is. I challenged him to a bet and he would have lost.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. B

    Look he called the cops they told him to stand down... The founder of these watch groups has said one should never have a gun... Only a flashlight and a two way radio to report they are not trained to make the life and death decisions that the police are...This is not about race but more about the establishment over doing it about the little guy.... Zimmerman's Father got him out ( a former judge) and covered it that is what the real problem here is... A loser wannabe cop killing a unarmed child.. WAY TO GO at least murder 2 here

    April 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sielingfan

    "Get him!"

    *cue Yakety Sax*
    *Zimmerman and police have a chase scene in a hallway with a lot of doors*

    April 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. thedfyent1



    April 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Allen

    I would like to see some effort made in Florida to have this prosecutor disbarred. You don't arrest people so they can prove their innocence. The evidence in court is going to show that Trayvon attacked the guy and got shot. I wouldn't be surprised if the judge dismisses the case, when the eyewitness describes the scene. DISBAR THIS LADY FOR MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Indiana

    I am very sad about the loss of a young person regardless of how it happened. This is a no win situation at this point.
    It's been turned into a race issue instead of legal issue. I don't know or care if he is guilty or not, that is an issue for the law and for the two families who are suffering right now. Similar crimes happen every day regardless of race and people are not ready to take to the streets in protest. I think that fears of racial unrest will play a real part in how this case is handled.

    There is only one part to the story that I don't understand is how the black panthers can openly put a bounty out and not face any criminal charges. I believe that any organization that openly promotes killing or rioting (white or black) should be prosecuted.

    April 12, 2012 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Avid

      Your post reeks of ignorance. You claim you do not care if Zimmerman is found guilty or not, but yet you believe that the black panthers should face criminal charges for issuing a bounty. Such a ludicrous comment to make. A young unarmed teen has just lost his life and this is the nonsense you spew. So pathetic that people like you still exist!

      April 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nodack

      Pathetic that people like him exist? It's ok for a group that only allows violent black men that openly hate white people in their group to offer money for the first guy to murder Zimmerman, but it's racist for somebody to call them out on it?

      I don't think it's nonsense at all.

      What if there was a group of violent white people that openly hate blacks and they offered money to the first person to murder a black guy they chose? Would you be OK with that? I didn't think so.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
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    April 27, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
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    July 11, 2012 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
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