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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    So let me get this straight, A mexican-american gets confused for an european-american and is accused of killing an african-american out of cold blood vs self defense and he's racist. R E D I C U L O U S. Another problem, Dead men tell no tales. Better have the facts and the story straight before you make a judgement call and accuse one or the other of something the may or may not have done.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      You didn't get that straight because George Zimmerman's stories are not straight. The facts don't corroborate with his story. I'm not the only person to point out that Trayvon Martin died on grass, far from the SUV or the concrete George Zimmerman had his head banged against. This is just one example of inconsistency with his story.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thegoodman

      Do dead minors tell tales? The facts are straight. Zimmerman pursued Martin (against the orders of the 911 operator). Zimmerman shot and killed Martin. What other facts could possibly be relevant?

      Also, it is spelled ridiculous you moron.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TexDoc

    Can this guy get a fair trial anywhere in America? He's being hounded. I think he's being set up to take a fall to quiet the 'masses' then the conviction will be quietly overturned on appeal. It's going to cost this guy hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • isZimmermanWako

      ***’ So I think that's a troubling question of legal ethics on their part."***

      I don't think it's unethecal to let the world know their client may be armed, unpredictable and dangerous

      If he's so dangerous, then he should be arrested

      after all, he's under a lot of stress,
      and if it's stress and not evil intent that made him fire the first time
      then it can happen again

      if anything, if he got a family, this will allow to put his family in a safe place

      because right now, he may not be the only one out of control

      personaly I think he's guilty, but some are a bit out of control and mob-like in calling him guilty, and we don't need a large scale racial incident. bad enought there was a badly timed absolutely scandalous mobing in Baltimore

      I mean, what was that street gang thinking ... let's ruin the image of our community, let's help zimmerman by attacking the first tourist we find, in the most public place, and make sure everyone on youtube see it
      they sure have no brain, and I hope some other street gang will teach them a lesson and bring them to the cops,
      if just out of racial pride

      April 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Big Bubba

    Zimmerman is free to go anywhere in the world right now. He is a free man. Free as ant black man. Free as a bird. That's what the law says.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Big Ron

    sorry but the argument of age and size doesn't matter in a fight.I know guys that are shorter and weigh a lot less then bigger guys and they can kick their butts.the real problem here is the lack of solid evidence.Who's screaming?Does it matter?I'm sure they both screamed at one time or another.Zimmerman was yelling when Martin was punching him and beating his head on the ground.Martin probably screamed when he saw the gun come out and he couldn't wrest it from Zimmerman.All of this happens in seconds,not minutes.When someone thinks it's either your going to die or me,I believe Zimmerman thought to himself in those few seconds that it wasn't going to be him.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dan

    Could it be that Zimmerman did not return the lawyers calls because he did not want them as lawyers? I can think of many reasons for that but I don't know what he is now thinking or ever thought. I have had many experiences with extrasensory perception, once with a human but many times with horses therefor I know it exists and wonder if that has anything to do with my thinking in this matter??? I wonder if the thinking of the crowd has anything to do with the thoughts of others in this matter. Are we thinking for ourselves? Do we have all the facts? Are we thinking the way we want it to be?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ari61

      The police might need an equestrian psychic if there were horse witnesses.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • isZimmermanWako

      they keep charging you. so you would definitively call them ASAP to cut the costs.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lindy

    Attorneys drop clients and clients drop attorneys all the time. It's not clear here who dropped whom. Zimmerman set up a website to riase money for his defense and stopped contacting his attorneys; it's natural for them to assuem they would soon be out of the picture, if they weren't already. The one is bizarrre here, in making much out of nothing, is Toobin.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ♚Mmmmm♛

    dummy justice system...you coulddah had a V-8...prosecutors yah looking really goofy by these two sleaze bag zimmy-attorneys...

    April 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. come

    What a crock people need tomake a race issue from a young mans death. He may have been wrong, went too far, and may end up serving prison time but not because the guy is a racist but from what I see a guy that was a powertripper or wanna be cop.
    Nobody is walking around with picket signs claiming racism because that guy they showed on the news that was punch in the face, and knocked out cold and stripped naked and robbed by seemingly a mob of blacks. Whats more Roland Martin lessened the situation by stating well its different because he didnt die.....sorry Roland , not different, the guys head bounced off the concrete, that can killl someone, the fact that someone dies or doesnt die from the attack does not indicate the intent of the attacker.
    Time to deal with the actual facts and not cry racism where it likely isnt....and maybe take a look in the mirror.
    Hopefully there will be justice for all based on the facts and not due to pressure or the demand of an arest by the great and wonderful Oprah!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. N Tyler

    You is stupid for saying that stupid.Now its time for this man to go to jail and thats just that before he kill again this time it might be some body white then what.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    If you took a man, and made sure you pressed his dead, cold fingers around your gun to transfer fingerprints onto it, you'd run too.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Unknown

    People keep calling Zimmerman Hispanic. Zimmerman mother is Hispanic (Peruvian), but his biological father is not. Also, Zimmerman was not raised Hispanic, please stop calling Zimmerman Hispanic. It is incredible that such prestigious News Company cannot get the facts right. Blessings and I pray that justice is done.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hal Atosis

      So what do you call Barry O?

      April 10, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. butta

    Trayvon got what he deserved thank z 4 stopping future crimes by this thug and t was not poor dont trust em obama not even help her own people hope yall learnt

    April 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      You reasoning is not only illogical but stupid and you need to crawl but from the hole you came from.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • irs tax guy

      Learn the difference between a fragment and a complete sentence before you try and insult someone on an online blog,community college will assist you with your sentence structure.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geezy

      Oh, you must have known Trayvon and therefore know some information that the public doesn't about some criminal activity since you are calling him a thug. Please enlighten the rest of us. (and the school stuff doesn't count. That is normal stuff for a teenager).

      April 10, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Judy75201

    This not bizzare at all. It was their only option to communicate with a (now former) client who refused to let the attorneys lead this unpaid pro bono case. Georgie Porgie wants those donation funds all to himself lol.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. james

    Once he crossed the border he didn't need the lawyers anymore. Easter Sunday and south of the border,,

    April 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kim

    Newsflash! Hero's don't run and hide like cowards! Get him Angela! He's now a flight risk! You know it and I know it! Put him under the jail. Nobody cares about whether he gets a fair trial or not! He should have thought about this when he decided to pursue someone else's child! Just get him to jail....the inmates will take it from there!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
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