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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    Corey has already ruled out the grand jury, that means there will be no murder charges.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  2. expressedpayne1

    nothing will ever change if u dont like it here leave......america will NEVER EVER CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, B.A., J.D., S.P.J.

      I predict that Mr. Zimmerman is in Rio De Janiero, with help from his dad, Judge Obstruction of Justice. Once Zimmerman gets his name on the birth certificate of a newly born Brazilian baby, he cannot be extradited to what will certainly be a death penalty. Thanks to the good old boy network in Florida, a murderer goes free! Disgusting!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • M

      Don't be too sure about that; the US has a lot of 'connections' in Brazil, who would be very helpful and quick to drag Mr. Zimmerman's buttocks back here to face justice for what he did. That is for sure!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. ArtInChicago

    Jasmine Rand is fine.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mountain Goat

    Vick I said that it would be my guess that he fired them. I didn't "make it up". You ok buddy? Too many concussions?

    April 11, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Michael Vick©™

    Mountain Goat: Put your money where your mouth is. How much do you want to bet Angela Corey would not indict Zimmerman? If you know any law then you will know these type of cases usually don't require grand jury. The fact Angela Corey pointed out ruling out grand jury doesn't affect her decision should have already told you something.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. MadJerry

    This kind of withdrawal is usually called a "noisy withdrawal." It can be used where the attorney may feel that the client is doing something illegal but cannot say as much due to the attorney-client privilege.

    But it is also worth noting that they never actually appeared on behalf of Zimmerman. If that is the case they may just be trying to tell people not to come to them if they need to get a hold of Zimmerman. It could also be a way to force Zimmerman to contact them because they cant seem to find him...

    April 11, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mountain Goat

    Dream the Dream...you still won't make it happen...Zimmerman was within the limits of FL law.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  8. lee miller kauai

    ...far from florida...in the united states...lost in hawaii somewhere...kauai is where ya go when ya dont want to be found...napali coast...

    April 11, 2012 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. Michael Vick©™

    Mountain Goat: Your guess is pretty lousy. If the lawyers got fired, they would be subject to lawsuit from Zimmerman for pulling this damaging stunt. If the lawyers got fired, their only option in public would be to tell that Zimmerman dismissed them. Why would the lawyers try so hard to contact Zimmerman after Zimmerman fired them? I've hired attorneys many times and if I tell them I don't need their service they won't bother me again. None of them would try to tell the public that they tried to contact me but couldn't reach me.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. Mountain Goat

    My pitt bull is 13 years old! She still loves to play although I can beat her in the 40 yard dash now....

    April 11, 2012 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mountain Goat

    Vick, from my understanding Zimmerman has not officially retained any council. So hence "dismissal" would be more accurate.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      Mountain Goat: If you were Zimmerman, wouldn't you want to sue the lawyers for lying in public and creating false image of what happened? Again, the lawyers said they could not reach Zimmerman and had no idea what he's up to. So if that were not the case and Zimmerman simply dismissed them, Zimmerman has the right to sue these lawyers for making false statement in public.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  12. Boo Yah!

    Zimbo has absolutely no respect for authority. He's so accustomed to committing crimes and getting away with it. Thanks to the perserverance of Trayvon's family, this clown WILL be brought to justice. Now more Sanford's (police dept.) of America will be exposed. Trayvon Martin started a movement. It is my hope that this movement will also bring attention to the senseless killings of Blacks by Blacks as well.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Mountain Goat

      Sounds like a bowel movement to me.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mike H

    Zimmerman's defenders have no evidence to support his case and even his attorneys never met him to see his lying eyes. He should just surrender, confess and beg the court for mercy. Get it over with already.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      You're so wrong. Zimmerman's supporters have evidence. Their evidence is Zimmerman's story.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. Michael Vick©™

    Mountain Goat:
    Since you buy Zimmerman's fake story, then please help me by explaining the following:

    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. What was Trayvon Martin's last action before he allegedly went for Zimmerman's gun? Banging Zimmerman's head against wet grass?

    Also, according to Lou Polumbo, if Zimmerman did not conceal his gun well, he's at fault. Zimmerman kept saying he felt threatened. But he cannot feel more threatened than Martin if Martin saw he a stalker carrying a gun. The forensics would have to find Trayvon's print on that gun or else we don't have to buy Zimmerman's yet another story that doesn't make any sense.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  15. Boo Yah!

    Mountain Goat, it is a bowel movement, right in your face!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
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