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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

soundoff (642 Responses)
  1. DeeGreen

    Funny how a lot of sheople fall victim to drama..... There are a lot of "Sheople" on this "blog" – completely laughable...........:)

    April 11, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. Arran Webb

    False assumption to think lawyers are motivated by justice and law. They are freelancers motivated by winning. Lawyers have been granted a market by this system that creates laws but does not administer them. Lawyers are like the health care system one day we might have to pay a monthly justice insurance premium.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jimmer

    So now the name Zimmerman is of hispanic origin?

    April 11, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  4. DeeGreen

    Pro T. – go B.P. – Go Sheople.......:)

    April 11, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sarah

    Georgie should go get Jose Baez to represent him. He's already gotten one murderer off in Florida...

    April 11, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. DeeGreen

    Too many ignorant people here – must leave..........

    April 11, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jimmer

    His father is white (Zimmerman) his mother is hispanic. Refering to him as hispanic is inaccurate to say the least

    April 11, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Lisa

    GUILTY.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Michael Vick©™

    George Zimmerman is Caucasian. What's wrong with saying he's white? Who cares if he's Hispanic, German, Irish, French, or Australian? He's caucasian so he's white. Period.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jimmer

    By caucasian you mean what?

    April 11, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      Some people are trying to shift the focus that he's Hispanic to make it appear that he's not white. My question is what does that have to do with the fact he is or is not white? Even my kids know the 3 main races are caucasian (white), mongoloid (asian), and black.

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

    How is it that the Sanford Police Department's failure to properly and expeditiously investigate this matter is not an criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice in favor of George Zimmerman?

    April 11, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • cnndoug

      The new chief of police is black, before that Darren Scott was a captain on the Sanford police force were he was a 23-year veteran. The police officer that filed the police report was a minority also. The police spent 7 hours on the crime scene and interviewed 6 witnesses.
      Yahoo! News police reports

      April 11, 2012 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      Bingo! And how was the father involved?

      April 11, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. infonomics

    "Zimmy did a booby" tweets Tooby.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  13. cnndoug

    "Moreover, the Florida statute provides an additional layer of protection to a defendant claiming self-defense: A judge must decide whether the defendant is "immune from prosecution," that is, if the judge believes his actions fall under the law of self-defense."

    "But to complicate matters further, even a provocateur has the legal right to defend himself under Florida law if he can't escape and if he is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, as Zimmerman claims he was."

    April 11, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. cnndoug

    "In 2008, Zimmerman completed a 14-week citizens' police academy program offered by the Seminole Sheriff's Department. "At the time the homeowners association decided to organize a neighborhood watch, George Zimmerman was the only volunteer. He was then chosen as the neighborhood watch coordinator by his neighbors, according to Wendy Dorival, who organizes Neighborhood Watch for the Sanford Police Department. It was reported Mr. Zimmerman wanted the neighborhood to be safe for his wife who encouraged him to get a gun permit because of the area's high crime rate. The February 2012 Homeowner association newsletter requested that crime victims "call our captain, George Zimmerman" after calling police."

    April 11, 2012 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      The man had criminal record and history of domestic violence. The HOA must be very desperate. Zimmerman also made at least 46 false alarm 911 calls. The man is clearly trigger happy paranoid lunatic. After Martin allegedly said "Do you have a problem" and Zimmerman answered "No", and then Martin replied "You have one now!", do you seriously believe Zimmerman got jumped and sucker punched by someone 110 pounds lighter? Not only did Trayvon Martin lost element of surprise, but he managed to overcome a 110 pound disadvantage and took down Zimmerman? Clearly Zimmerman is incompetent. He should have quit the neighborhood watch, let alone owning a gun.

      April 11, 2012 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • fauxhawk70

      Yes... Homeowners association... Private gated community... Private property.... My point is that by following Zimmerman and asking him what he was doing in that gated community was completely legal even if Martin was visiting and especially since there were many recent burgeries in that area!

      The crime was commited when Martin returned and assaulted Zimmerman pinning him on the ground and feloneous assaulting him... Felony assault is a crime that Zimmerman was legally able to defend against with his legal defensive carry sidearm when he was being beaten by Martin even though Martin was unarmed. People have been killed by bare hands in the past and how is Zimmerman supposed to know what Martin was capable of?

      Do you think that Zimmerman was worried about what the police would do to him or if he would have to serve jail time before he fired the fatal gunshot that killed Martin while Martin was pummeling him and maybe killing him? He was just trying to survive and not die! He probably only had a moment to react brfore he lost conciousness.

      Martin chose poorly and he paid the ultimate price but nobody asked him to return and assault Zimmerman! Again... Zimmerman broke no law following Zimmerman or made Martin in any way return and assault him... Following someone is no excuse to return and beat someone up! Treyvon may have been upset but he should not have resorted to violence and escalted the issue!

      If someone commits a felony to do bodily harm or worse to you or someone in your presence you are justified to use deadly force... Even if the officer thought that the killing was over the top you have to remember that he was not there at the time and he is only an officer and not a judge... If an officer knew the law that well they would be attorneys and not cops. They are only qualified to give an opinion but that is not the actual law.

      The prosecutor is the key here... What will she say? If she goes by the law then Zimmerman should not have any charges filed against him.

      That actually may be the reason that no charges have been filed and may also be why he has not contacted his attorneys... He may have contacted the prosecutor and she may have told him that there will be no charges filed and that may be why his attorneys have not heard from him... It is possible.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  15. Obvious

    Zimmerman hasn't contacted his lawyer for days – may be awol. How bizarre!

    April 11, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
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