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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    Seems Toobin is a racebaiter

    April 10, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. The Original Phantom

    Oh, what would we do without Florida for entertainment. A never ending saga.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. good

    maybe its cause the lawyers don't want the whole world to blame them when it comes out that zimmerman is no longer in the country which is pretty obvious.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DeeGreen

    TOOBIN – BIN + L = TOOL 🙂

    April 10, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Oh how lovely

    I personally don't think GZ killing had anything to do with racism. I think he just wanted to pull the trigger period. He even said in the gun safety class he took that he wants to be a police officer. He knew he had people on the inside who would back him. Isn't his mom or dad a judge? It's sad people have to bring race into things. The comment white people want all the resources is so racist and ridiculous. Grow up kid. Too bad people can't see past the color of one's skin. I would never like or dislike someone because they were white/black/hispanic/gay/religious. Evolve . . . . . . . .

    April 10, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. B. A.

    I guess they're trying to fight stupidity with strange.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sch_65

    You know, he could have been killed or kidnapped, which would help explain his non-responsiveness.

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

    George Zimmerman is not a hispanic Toobin. He would more accuratley be described as white most likely German origins, by way of his father(who is a high ranking judicial branch official). His mother is from Peru. His fathers occupation would explain the delay in his arrest/prosecution. Notice the delay in this case lining up with our presidential elections. Nothing like an easily resolved racial murder to spark foolish discord among the working class populations in this nation.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • sch_65

      hey Jimmer, his Family describes him as Hispanic, silly – keep your opinions to Yourself

      April 11, 2012 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      sch – Zimmerman has referred to himself as white. I believe his father, after the shooting, said George was hispanic in order to appear sympathetic or his crime not racially motivated. It was a convenient label.

      April 11, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. InMyOpinion

    Hellllloooooooooooooo....the police told Zimmerman NOT to follow Trayvon. If he would have did as he was told, Trayvon would still be alive. Zimmerman is a cold-blooded KILLER....plain and simple. Arrest this murderer! Perhaps it was Trayvon that tried to STAND HIS GROUND! I wish all you racist MFs would go live on an island and/or another planet - YOU'RE DISGUSTING!

    April 10, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cyber

      Heloooo..a 911 *dispatcher* said he "did not *have to* do that [follow the subject]". The dispatcher did not say 'do not follow him'.

      April 11, 2012 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • ThatsJustCrazy

      It was a 911 operator, not the police that said "Ok, we don't need you to do that" is regards to him following him. Get your facts right.

      April 11, 2012 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  10. Shedan

    Zimmerman's website is bizarre – he is wanting donations for living expenses plus defense if he needs it. Yeah, right – I guess we should all go out, stalk someone and kill them in "self defense", then we could live off donations. Zimmerman needs to be charged with manslaughter= there are plenty of witnesses who tell a different tale from Z.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike Buck

    The lawyers were concerned that Zimmerman's behavior had become very strange. This includes communicating with right wing nut job Sean Hannity of without informing his own legal team. Any association with Hannity is an indication that Zimmerman has mental issues and perhaps his new defense will claim insanity!

    April 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jimmer

    * by easily resolved I mean, that this case would have recieved zero attention had the police commissioner of the town (Sanford) (Stanford?) who has, since this case received natl attention, resigned, Just conducted a full scale investigation like he was supposed to when someone confesses to a self defense related murder and the victim is an unarmed minor.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. UVikingsLost

    This does not put George Zimmerman in a good light. It only proves what people have been saying about Zimmerman, in that, he is irrational and unstable and fully capable of stalking and pursuing to kill Trayvon Martin.

    No one is above the law and Zimmerman seems to be getting advice from all the wrong places (Hannity).

    My prayers go out to the Martin family in their search for justice for Trayvon.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  14. guest

    GZ is about to dissappear into the witness protection plan.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. sue556

    Has any one considered the fact that signs , slurs have been against the whites ? Can any one tell me why ? Zimmerman is hispanic , not white ! Why are the wihite people taking any blame at all ? Or is it a case of the regular race card of black and white. Not thinking we are not always the blame here. If they are blaming the police as the white people to blame did they consider some of the police force are Blacks there too ? I get so tried of the race card being played in cases like this. Tell me it hasnt been the oppsite Black killing other races yet you dont see an out cry or tons of people gathering to get a point across , or a aclu or any one else backing that white dead person up. It`s getting to the point where we the whites have to watch our backs or be on the defensive all the time. Things are going to happen in this world that are beyond any ones control and not all are going to be pretty ,they will be sad , unfair . We cant go on using the race card as excuses . If you do get it right , He`s hispanic , not white !

    April 11, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
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