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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    what's really "bizarre" is how much CNN wants to push this story so everyone hates each other. Very immature CNN.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      CNN conducted a poll and found nearly 70% of white and 90% of blacks think Zimmerman should be arrested. I'm sure those 70% white and 90% black are hating each other. When I see the protests, I see a lot of white, asian, and black participating. I don't see them hating each other.

      April 11, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    If Zimmerman and Martin were both white, this story wouldn't of been on CNN. Whose racist now?

    April 11, 2012 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Blacks kill blacks and Al Sharpton doesnt hold a rally

      April 11, 2012 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • corpsman


      April 11, 2012 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joe Mahma

    OK, what's the "bizarre" part?

    April 11, 2012 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. david burns

    Mr Zimmerman is hard to get ahold of because he fears for his life. He has received multiple death threats from those who have decided he is guilty without benefit of a fair trial. The media, as always, has played their role in this pre-conviction as well. Just look at the photos of both Zimmerman (overweight and in a prison type uniform that is obviously not current) – and photos of the 17 year old that are obviously when he was much younger and more innocent.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      Right, he's hard to get hold of by the lawyers because he believe the lawyers will sell him out and reveal his hideout. Give me a fvcking break!

      April 11, 2012 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • shewbox

      yep...cnn keeps showing the pathetic little picture of a 12 yrold in all its postings

      April 11, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
    • ThinkAgain

      Zimmerman put this whole thing in motion when he decided Trayvon Martin was guilty and sentenced him to death, without knowing any facts about the situation and without the benefit of trial. While I don't condone the death threats against Zimmerman, I think it's just a simple case of karma.

      April 11, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. cnndoug

    From officer Ricardo Ayala, the second to arrive:
    "I attempted to get a response from the black male, but was met with negative results. At that time, Sgt. Raimondo arrived and attempted to get a pulse from the black male but none was found. At that time, Sgt. Raimondo and I turned the black male over and began CPR. Sgt. Raimondo did breaths and I did chest compressions."

    "Sgt. McCoy arrived and relieved me continuing compressions. Sanford Fire Rescue arrived on scene and attempted to revive the subject but could not. Paramedic Brady pronounced the subject deceased at 1930 hours."

    "The scene was then secured with crime scene tape by Ofc. Mead and Ofc. Wagner. Ofc. Robertson began a crime scene contamination log. Lt. Taylor arrived on scene and notified dispatch to have Major Crimes responds to the scene."

    "Ofc. Mead and Ofc. Wagner were able to make contact with neighbors in the area. They were able to obtain statements from all witnesses on scene." "The scene was turned over to SPD Major Crimes."

    April 11, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  6. Michael Vick©™

    to cnndoug: Zimmerman 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. Also we know Martin died on grass which was quite a distance from concrete and SUV. I can see that it's possible Trayvon Martin was banging Zimmerman's head against wet grass. But that still doesn't explain his story about his head banging against concrete or that he lost the sight of Martin and went back to his SUV and got jumped.

    Also, the timeline of events proved that police only attended to Zimmerman's alleged wound for no more than 15 minutes. That must be some serious life-threatening injuries.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • cnndoug

      He died two feet from the concrete sidewalk. Here is a picture of the crime scene.



      April 11, 2012 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      And the sidewalk is in between the backyards. Not by the street or car.

      April 11, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. Brian Ritchey

    Were the lawyers sober? Google "drunk lawyer." When I did this it pulled up 40,000 hits.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. Michael Vick©™

    Zimmerman is rumored to have received a lot of donation thru his paypal. I'm going to laugh at all you racists out there if Zimmerman decides to run for it with your hard earned cash.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    This cat Zimmerman man may not be running at all...he might already be dead...huh?

    April 11, 2012 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  10. tonyl

    Zimmerman realized that these two attorneys representing him were nothing but greedy leeches, who were trying to suck money from him and trying to take control over his defense fund to line their own pockets. He decided to dump them and they showed their true colors as most attorneys are in it for the money. They reacted to getting fired. Since he had not signed any agreement to retain the leeches they decided to hurt him by going public. One of the attorney seems like a bully and twisted hot head. He is always talks with anger and sarcasm with the media. I would never hire these low lives in the first place. Most attorneys has only one interest in all cases. How much money can they suck from the poor vulnerable defendant in trouble. Usually in a criminal cases the defendant dos not have much time to screen a good lawyer so they have to pick one in a hurry and these attorneys know and take advantage of these situations. I have first hand knowledge of this practice. Our justice system is designed by lawyers for lining their pockets.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. Golden Girl

    He hasn't responded to messages since Sunday and they publicly announce they don't want the case on Tuesday? Talk about an overreaction! I think they clearly don't want the case.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. corpsman

    The lawyers are simply covering their butts.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. corntrader19

    CNN: How long are you going to milk this story? Enough already! It's time to move on.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
    • ThinkAgain

      I disagree. 65 people in Florida have been killed under this "stand your ground" law, 45 of whom were unarmed. This needs to stay in the spotlight until this horrendous law is overturned.

      Because think about it: What's to stop anyone from going to Florida, declaring another person is "threatening" them and killing them on the spot?

      April 11, 2012 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mountain Goat

    Zimmerman has obviously fired these attorneys by advice from his father, would be my guess. nothing wrong or strange here. Move along people. This "non" case is closed. The question is...when will the leftist media (yes that's you CNN) stop scraping for nuggets to try and patch all the holes in your oh so horrible episode of bias reporting on this incident? Your democratic leftist/liberal house of cards/lies has crumbled. We will all be awaiting your apologies, which of course I for one will not accept.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. wisdom4u2

    I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter where his a ss is.....he's a 'marked' man...like Cain was. I'm glad I don't look like him...PHEW!!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
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