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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    These are not official attorneys. Fame hounds.

    April 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      It doesn't matter. The lawyer got paid. Zimmerman got paid too. Who knows? Zimmerman might have gotten so much paypal money he could live comfortably as fugitive.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John

    They did it for self preservation. Since everyone knows about this case, and they will always have the stigma of representing Zimmerman, and Zimmerman is not co-operating with them, then throwing him under the bus is an attractive alternative!

    April 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      You have to agree that this latest move/run by Zimmerman made special prosecutor Angela Corey's job a lot easier. Right now she will have to indict Zimmerman to avoid Rodney King riots all over the country. I hope this country adopts some kind of IQ test for a gun license. George Zimmerman is clearly one dumb fvck. You don't run few days ahead of special prosecutor's decision.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luminus


      April 11, 2012 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Luminus

      Bingo @ John, not Michael.

      April 11, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. Eric of Reseda

    This doesn't look good for Zimmerman, regardless of how his attorneys presented the news. I have to think that this guy has something to hide. And speaking of hiding, I can understand concern for his safety. But if he was truly innocent, was indeed getting beaten when he pulled the gun, I have to believe had he gotten in front of this, so to speak, talked to the family, taken his civil suit lumps but exspessed genuine remorse and terrible judgement, he may not even NEED to hide. But he ran right out of the gate, continues to, and that doesn't seem the actions of an innocent man.

    April 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rudy

      Nonsense man. Are you trumping your race card?

      April 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • portland tony

      With every black person in the
      US looking to do something bad to you, I'd keep my a*s hidden too.

      April 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. I'm Not Even a Lawyer

    This was a smart move.
    They got a major platform to broadcast
    that GZ was not in Sanford, not in FL.
    And guess why that was important going forward...

    April 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rudy

    If this is not an unethical obligue breach of confidentiality subject to sanction by the bar then I don't know what is. They advanced their interest at the public forum at the expense of the client. If this is not breach of loyalty owed to a client then one wonders was is. Shameful

    April 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Agreed, why hold a news conference to announce nothing? And you don't know where he is or how to reach him? 30 million people could say that too.

      Did they win the Maryland lottery too?

      April 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chunky

    what concerns me "going forward" is the Rodney-King-like riots that are going to break out if and when florida prosecutor decides in favor of zimmerman

    all non black people better be sure at that moment that they are not on the wrong side of town

    April 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Servant55

    Sometimes IT IS what you say and how you say it.

    My hope from the the start was just that officials follow a reasonable protocol and investigate any situation where a weapon is used and a life is lost. I am not concerned with the color of one's skin. I simply would like to see due process.
    We have lost time and valuable evidence with the inaction on the night of the incident. Let work with what we have.

    April 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ELH

    Zimmerman may fear for his own life and decide that bailing is the better course of action. If the prosecutor is going to charge him, running isn't likely to change things that much in the eyes of the jury. On the other hand, if no charges are forthcoming, he has a jump-start on anyone who aims to retaliate. I am sure that there is more than one bro' who would like to put some hurt on him.

    April 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. The Truth

    They couldn't contact Zimmerman they said, only way to contact him is get on TV and make it a public. I'm sure Zimmerman knows they dropped him now, or will know when the 5:00 news hits.

    April 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Do they have CNN in Costa Rica?

      April 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. tammy

    George Zimmerman "America's new most wanted"

    April 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. James

    Yeah, not in Florida cuz he is on the beach in Costa Rica ... lol

    April 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. james

    He should come forward and tell his side of the story instead of hiding. This is the best time to do that.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Truth

      Only innocent people do that.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sheepleherder

    This is BS. It looks like these bozo's jumped on the bandwagon without an invitation and now Zimmerman is looking for someone who wants something other than some face time on TV. What LEGITIMATE lawyer would dump their client after not hearing from them after only two days?? And hold a press conference on it?? BS! I wonder if these yoyo's were ever Zimmerman's lawyers at all?

    April 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tikib

    I think this is a sad case all around. As a young black female, I feel sorry that a young male had to lose his life to an overzealous self-appointed neighborhood watch person. Trayvon Martin will never graduate from high school, attend his prom, fill out college applications, attend college or the military, get married, have children, or even watch his parents grow old. He will never be able to do the things he probably expected to do because of an overzealous nutcase who felt threatened because of the color his skin. The sad part is there have been many African American males who have been murdered and tortured at the hands of white people. This sad situations extends far beyond Trayvon, Emmitt Till, or the Jim Crow era. Another sad part about it is many white males have gotten away with murdering African American males. This is not a racist rant as many may call it. This is the truth and a part of African American and American history.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big Bubba

      Oh please! Young black female. Try counting how many brothers committed violent crimes. Stop crying about being a victim.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nate

      @TikiB. You are a sad self pitying idiot

      April 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • roots


      Try your luck in Somalia

      April 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • ABarker

      You're right, that has happened. However, the reverse is also true. There are white men who have been murdered by black men who have never been convicted and there are hispanic men who have been killed or have killed with the same result. There have been horrible things happen on all sides. It's long past time everyone stopped throwing the color of their skin around, regardless of whether it is black, white, brown, green, blue. When everyone starts being responsible for their own actions and inactions, things will improve. Until then, this constant back and forth is going to happen. That is the real shame.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Zimmerman is hispanic, not white and I seriously doubt Treyvon was looking at college apps or thinking of getting married, having kids maybe...

      April 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • T. P.

      "As a young black female ..."

      how do you think you'd feel if you were older? or latino? or a male?

      April 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Greek American

    I agree with your comments but I place more of the blame on police and the entire Justice system. This doesn't only happen to blacks by the way. My white friend, along with his white friend were carjacked and both shot and left for dead in an alley near Detroit. The friend lived and is now blind in one eye along with other physical problems. They found the guy who did it, took him to court, and he was found innocent by 12 black jurors. All this when the friend he shot in the head was a witness and pointed him out.
    So I'm sorry but I don't completely agree with your black and white story.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Juanmom

      Wow, an all black jury, was this in Africa? Because the US has NEVER had an all black jury?

      April 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
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