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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    I could care less if Zimmerman is orange, green, blue, chartreuse, lime, pink, yellow, ect ect.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jammaster

    SeanKlannity should realize Karma always balances things out. Look at Newt and Limbaugh and the crazy BPP leader who tried to place a bounty he could not enforce or even afford to pay.
    Klannity will get his day, and it will be public humiliation.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • bargrevience

      Yeah look at all you mor0ns and the country going to pot cause your all asleep

      April 10, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Simon

    Mr. Martin was the one acting in self-defense and he was murdered for it. Zimmerman approached Martin, not the other way around. Zimmerman was the aggressor. Martin attempted to defend himself and was murdered. It doesn't matter who survived, the law is the law. Zimmerman needs to be arrest and prosecuted like any other murderer who assaults an innocent person on the street.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • denroy

      You seem to know an awful lot considering YOU WEREN'T THERE AND HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!

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

      Oh, really? I guess you were there when it happened? Seems like you know a lot more than anyone else.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • southerner01

      Approaching someone is not a crime. It is not wrong, it is perfectly ok. Attacking someone because they wanted to know why you were wandering the neighborhood at night in the rain is a crime and can trigger self defense.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • sas

      Yeah right. I am sure zimmerman felt like murdering someone for no reason that day. He must of thought to himself, "Hey, I want to just go after an innocent black man and shoot him just for fun. And I bet I will get away with it because I am a white hispanic." Get real. He may have been wrong to go after the guys. But these punks escalated the fight and reached for his gun. If it had happened the way you think it did, he would have been arrested immediately.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • bargrevience

      you know this cause you were there?

      April 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • rubywyld

      Oh please, no approaching someone is not a crime.. neither is walking on the side walk or running from a stranger. Stalking however is a different story and Zimmerman's actions fit the legal definition of stalking word for word. Zimmerman himself admits to giving chase.. no we weren't there but there sure as hell is more than enough questions as to Zimmerman's account of things. I guess when you kill the only other person who was 'there' it's pretty easy to tell whatever story you want.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. be Wildered

    the Great Zimmerman will go down in flames and all his evil doing supporters will burn in the fires of hell forever.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • bargrevience

      planning a trip to hell aint ya?

      April 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lou1011

    Nothing’s changed here A Black thug assaulted a guy on the streets, who defended himself.One less Black thug in this world..thank you Zimmerman!

    April 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reggie from LA

      Nice try Loud1011.
      No one's buyin' it anymore you hateful Thug.
      How does it feel being a thug? So you're how Trayvon felt?
      You're like Trayvon? Dang.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • ladylaw

      And your reason for calling him a thug is what again .... typical stereotyping because he was wearing a hoodie and black oh yeah and armed with skittles and ice tea . its this kind of ignorance that could cause a race war that would put the 1960 to shame.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Essie

      @lou1011...WOW! It must seem nice to hide behind a computer and talk smack that you can't back up to someone standing in front of you... Keep tapping on your computer! Bcz that's all you can do....SAD!

      April 11, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. Christine

    There is absolutely no reason for these two lawyers to make a public statement with so much details about their client. They make themselves look imcompetent. If may end up being Zimmerman's best luck to get rid of these two clowns.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. trumpsahead

    Maybe Zimmerman could have a lawsuit against his estranged attorneys for making him sound like someone who does not listen to "advisers" be they police or attorneys; sure sounds like a nut on first read.

    Something always bothered me about this case from day one: Where are the so-called investigative reporters? Have they All died? Why has not the lack of professional "Watchman" clothing been an important consideration in this case? Zimmerman should have been wearing an obvious military shirt with lapels, a bright shiny badge, and a name tag - just for openers; he also should have had a "prepared one or two line" professionally prepared confrontation speech when up against a stranger.
    Now, if the Martin family is listening: I am white, but I believe in justice and I smell a rat. Listen, it has been written that someone was wearing a t-shirt in that fight. Well, we know Trayvon wore a hooded sweatshirt, so if the person who wrote that statement could swear to a t-shirt they saw, then that would be Zimmerman. Now, when Zimmerman was taken to the police station and released, he was wearing what looked like a two-color light weight stylistic jacket. So one should ask: What happened to his t-shirt? We need an answer because if he took off his jacket to confront Trayvon then it could mean he considered the possibility of violent confrontation and did not want to risk dirtying his nice jacket. In any case, it certainly shows a disregard for his own appearance and how he is presenting himself while confronting a stranger; and given that he was carrying a gun, how he presents himself to Anyone who did not know him should have been uppermost in his mind at all times. To a man carrying a gun approaching a stranger, how one presents himself in his physical appearance and what he says should be a laser-beam focus at all times.
    From what I've read, and unfortunately given the lack of investigative reporting, Zimmerman has never come across as one who gave a crap about how he was perceived, but rather as someone who took it upon himself that he was in his right to ask any question of a stranger and did not see that Trayvon had a right to ignore his questions and/or find his questions hostile. I can't help to continue to find for the victim's family. I will never get over that this case would not be a case if so-called "watchman volunteers" would wear military dress uniform shirts with badges and name tags. Zimmerman and Association should be sued big time.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • james

      When martin"s money grubbing parents finish selling tee- shirts . Im sure they will have another money grubbing lawyer to sue everyone they can.

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

      up your meds

      April 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reggie from LA

      What happened with "Z's" money grubbin' lawyers? Bwa ha ha.
      His parents have been reasonable. Zimmerman supporters have not been. If they (you) had a lick of senses, they wouldn't be supportive of that vigilante. Yes, vigilante. Dumb one at that.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • trumpsahead

      Having said that, I also believe this case may have been a set-up: No question that Trayvon was an unwilling victim, but maybe Zimmerman was a "patsy", just like others in the past: Lee Oswald, Timothy McVey, Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray, etc. How is it that Zimmerman had a gun license to begin with? Is it not at least conceivable given his personality and past "anger management" stories, he was set-up as a patsy to be a "watchman" in a neighborhood with mixed ethnicity? Wasn't it Emanuel of Obama Regime who said something like "even in a catastrophe take advantage of every opportunity to gain ground." Hey, any and all questions must be asked; you create theories, then you abandon the most improbable ones. Until questions are answered satisfactorily everything read or said is only theory.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lone

    It is kind of odd though. They dropped him because they have not spoken to him since Sunday. It's only Tuesday afternoon. They make it sound like it's been weeks and it's only one day, really. Something else is absolutely going on here

    April 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • SafeJourney

      Lone, I absolutely agree with you. Something else is going on with this case. I think, in part, it was Zimmermans total disregard of thier advice NOT to talk to anyone. Zimm not returning thier phone calls is only a small part of the problem. Zimmerman tried to talk to the DA but she would not talk to Zimm. THEN Zimmerman called Fox News and did talk to Hannity. BIG MISTAKE!!

      April 11, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Name*c rob davis


    April 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. big banjo

    zimmerman is innocent and the shooting was justified.....those two clown attorneys are just spiteful and want one last shot at face time, their publicly proclaimimng that they are no longer representing him is highly unethical and they should be reprimanded for having done it......it is quite clear that having those two wingnuts for attorneys would have been a huge mistake....there are plenty of competent highly experienced attorneys that would be ecstatic to represent him.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ArtInChicago

    Lemme get this straight, these guys never met with their client, they go on talk shows for almost a week detailing what happened and the potential defense and the credibility of their client, then in today's news conference they question their client's mental capacity? Amazing what can happen in 168 hours.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • SafeJourney

      Art, what changed was Zimmerman contacted the DA and she said she would not talk to him. AND then Zimmerman contacted Hannity of faux news. Zimmerman has totally disregarded his attorney advice and left them NO choice but to drop him.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dallastexas75205

    This guy has not been charged because he hasn't broken a law. Geezzzzz

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

      Yes, a FREE MAN. blacks should appreciate the word FREE.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lardeau

    More bungling. What is wrong with all these people ? The Country deserves an answer about what happened that night.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. big banjo

    yo fools.....in America it is not up to one to prove their innocence, it is up to the prosecution to prove guilt......there is no case here based on the facts and the evidence.....he hasn't been charged because there has not been a crime committed......and if by chance the prosecutor gives in to mob mentality and charges him he will be aquitted--i gaurentee it.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bargrevience

    I would bar grievance the lawyers. this not ethical behavior. I think the prosecutor is trying to make lemons out of lemonade. could this be the first trial by mob?

    April 10, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
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