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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    The crime was committed 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 before he lost consciousness.

    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! Trayvon may have been upset but he should not have resorted to violence and escalated 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 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      You wasted so much time writing that long essay. You are assuming George Zimmerman was telling the truth and treating his story as evidence. But the witness and forensics have came forward and their account don't match with Zimmerman's story. Just to play devils advcate. If this was unjustified murder, wouldn't self defense be the only card Zimmerman can play?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. wisdom4u2

    George Zimmerman is sing:

    ♫ ♫

    I always feel
    I always feel
    I always feel

    I always feel like
    Somebody's watching me
    And I have no privacy
    I always feel like
    Somebody's watchin' me
    Tell me is it just a dream

    ♫ ♫

    April 11, 2012 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • wisdom4u2


      April 11, 2012 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mike H

    The problem, fauxhawk70, is that there is no evidence supporting Zimmerman's crazy story, and a lot of evidence indicating that he stalked, hunted down and murdered a teenager in cold blood. And the "f*****g c***s" epithet makes it a hate crime, hence the FBI and DOJ. Zimmerman is toast.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      I've yet to hear from racists or Zimmerman's supporters how they would explain Trayvon Martin, who's 110 pounds lighter, managed to jump on Zimmerman and took him down. According to Zimmerman, he lost sight of Martin and went back to his SUV. Then Trayvon materialized in front of him, asking him "do you have a problem". Zimmerman said "No". Then Trayvon Martin said "You have one now!". FREEZE RIGHT THERE! How in the world did Zimmerman get jumped and sucker punched at that point? Did he decide to turn his back on Trayvon Martin after that conversation? Ok, so Trayvon Martin overcame a 110 pound disadvantage, and utilized his exceptional MMA skills to beat up Zimmerman and bang his head against concrete. OK FINE. How in the world did they end up quite a distance away from SUV and concrete, where Trayvon Martin was shot dead on the grass? The neighbors pointed out the spot Martin died was far away from SUV and concrete. All the ear witness pointed out the cry for help probably came from Martin. Not one said it came from Zimmerman. The 13 year old boy who walked the dog was interviewed 9 days after the incident. They have hired a lawyer and questioned the police's practice.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • 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 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • cnndoug

      If Zimmerman weighs 110 pound more then how was able to run down and catch the athletic Trayvon who got a running head start?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Why are people jumping to conclusions and automatically convicting someone without knowing all the details? You're making this a race issue when no one knows at this point if it even is. We all just need to calm down and wait for all the evidence to come forward.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. Boo Yah!

    Without any other facts in evidence, Zimbo is going down just for following Trayvon, regardless of what happened next, his actions toward an innocent man, resulted in his death. Corey is diligently investigating to ensure Zimbo goes
    to jail for a very long time. I'll bet he listens to Big Bubba!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  5. Pair 'a' legals

    The two lawyers were in the news, on news talk segments, discussing Zimmerman and the case for days, even expressing sorrow for Martin's family. So how could they just fade away and not explain why they stopped commenting? Zimmerman is said to consider them legal "counsels" not his actual lawyers. He might be trying to find the right lawyer for this tough case, and he might be in hiding for a number of reasons. The SP will soon act and we will likely see Zimmerman with his lawyer. Nothing is too mysterious here, unless he fled.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. Name*Mitch


    April 11, 2012 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mountain Goat

    Vick not to insult you, but you are just wrong. Zimmerman's story IS SUPPORTED BY THE POLICE, MULTIPLE WITNESSES, and why is there no 7/11 camera footage of Trayvon coming into the store? We all know what "tea and skittles" means. It means weed and extasy. Cmon MAN!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      Once again you twisted the facts. The police report filled in missing pieces with Zimmerman's story. This police report which is based on Zimmerman's story cannot be considered evidence. Also, one of the 3 women interviewed by the police said the police "corrected" her story about who she thought the cry for help came from. The 3 women all said they believe the voice came from the boy and not from Zimmerman, which voice forensics supported. There is one eye witness, the 13 year old boy who walked his dog. He wasn't sure what he saw, and the fact is police only interviewed him after 9 days. But Zimmerman was let go almost 9 days earlier. Let me ask you again. With so many discrepancies in Zimmerman's story, you still consider Zimmerman's story as evidence?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. SmartPotato

    It's either "attorneys' statements" or "attorney's statement"... nice punctuation and grammar, CNN. That's ridiculous.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
    • M Tarver

      Two attorneys may collectively prepare a joint statement - i.e., the "attorneys' statement."

      April 11, 2012 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. Boo Yah!

    First time i've ever seen one convicted by their own lawyers. They really threw him under the bus. They made us all even more aware of Zimbo's disregard for authority and doing things "his way".

    April 11, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. Mountain Goat

    Trayvon was also in a fight club and was caught at school with stolen jewlery in his backpack before he was suspended as I have read in several articles that leftist media won't report.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      Trayvon Martin was suspended only 3 times, not 5 or more as racists tried to mislead. These are not public record, so whoever leaked those definitely invaded other people's privacy. But for what it's worth, Martin was suspended for graffiti, a very violent and heinous crime. He was also suspended for having residue of a substance used by Mountain Goat's favorite president: George W Bush. That's pretty bad kid right there.

      But here is what we have for public record. Zimmerman had criminal history and had history of domestic violence. He also made at least 46 false alarm 911 calls prior to the incident. The man is proven to be violent and is proven to be a trigger happy paranoi lunatic. But those don't matter. We must keep digging up dirt on Trayvon Martin...

      April 11, 2012 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
    • cnndoug

      If Zimmerman was trigger happy then how come none of the other 46 911 calls ended without problem? Sounds like a perfect record of calling up to now.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Knowledge is power

      It doesnt matter what that young man did in the past. all that matters is that he was walking home and Zimbo who has no badge (and according to his Mug Shot that night looked pretty scary) was fallowing this young man and probably detained him which he had no legal right to do. Its that simple. on the 911 call he made he was in his car and got out for the purpose to fallow this young man which in its self is already asking for trouble. i dont know if he's a racist but its safe to say that he was a fool with a gun that night. and you and everyone else reading this know for a fact if that young man were white he would not have been fallowed and shot. and had he been white and gotten shot zimbo would have been locked up. anyone who will say other wise is lying to themselves. Young black men are victims of this by the police all the time. Sean Bell, Dealo, and the list goes on...

      April 11, 2012 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dabney Coleshnook

    Zimmerman's lawyers could be disbarred for improperly representing their client. What they have done appears to be illegal.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jefffbo

    The bIacks need to learn to accept that they don't present themselves well to the general public, let alone the white population. That they cause steriotyping. They present themselves as punks. And I know this much, people reap what they sow, everyone does, I have myself . Who hasn't. But particularly these days bIacks have learned to whine..and whine.... They will whine about anything, breaking in line, social welfare, and Zimmerman... Not , none of them will say suppose Travon did attack the mexican guy (not white)... But as a whole no they play the race card very stategically. They want to beleive that it was racial on our part. They want to make a stigma about it.... But notice the bIacks make a stigma out of anything that they perceive benefits them alone,.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Knowledge is power

      So in other words what you are saying is that Black men in general are bad people so therefore its Okay to fallow a black person even though your not a cop. So according to you its not Zimmerman (who is hispanic and Jewish BTW) that is to blame for Trayvon getting shot.... Its Tyayvon himself who is to blame because he should have left his Black skin at home.... Because his outfit IM sure you would find white kids in the area wearing the same thing. Now I would not call you a racist but your comment is evidence that both you and Zimmerman share the same thinking process when it comes to judging black men...

      April 11, 2012 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Knowledge is power

      Just in case you did not know their are many more whites on welfare then blacks, and if you have not noticed in just 1 generation after jim crow you have a first black president. The richest self made woman in america is Black. I will not get into the sports or the music industry it explains its self, not to mention the black doctors, lawyers, military generals, Pilots, astronauts and business owners out there. All this in 1 generation after Jim Crow. Imagine what will happen in 1 more generation. Meaning our grand kids and their kids. Some White Americans welcome it, like the true Lincoln Republicans and others fear it like those who put all black men into that small little box and would rather see black men in that negative light. So I think at this point its safe to say that your pretty ignorant to what the black community has contributed to this nation....

      April 11, 2012 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mountain Goat

    Zimmerman championed a protest against the police when a homeless black man was beaten down by a cop. He waited outside of the black churches and handed out flyers to help them organize. Doesn't fit the leftist media's narrative so they didn't report that too us either.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. Cassarit

    This what happens when professionalism gets flushed down the toilet.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. Boo Yah!

    Mountain Goat, where is the relevance to the shooting? I suppose you were (are) the perfect teenager.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
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