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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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. 2/8

    I really don't have much faith in comments made by legal "professionals" who blast out on Twitter like highschool students.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Takeanotherllok

    Meanwhile if you want to find Zimmermann you can donate to his Paypal account, he is somewhere in the US or its protectorates where he can attach the $$$. All of this makes the State of Florida and their DA's office look very stupid if a prosecution is to be issued. Hope the Justice Department doesn't have to rely on these bozo's for any indictment of Zimmerman.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. roots

    Boo hoo!
    Blacks are always the victims, never the aggressors. Its American history or black history. Let's just all sing kumbya together.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      It is to be expected for such an ignorant statement to come from an individual like yourself. Your parents must be very proud of your racist, ignorant existence.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul Williamson

      George Zimmerman is a coward as well as a bully.Whose skirts is he hiding behind?

      April 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dummie

      Another idiot abroad! You don't know enough about black people to make this statement so go back to fox news, your six pack and your sister...

      April 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      To read your comments would make one think white people were kept as slaves by blacks.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jammaster

      Interesting post.Must be recess time at the asylum.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Juanmom

      Do you know ALL black people? I didn't think so, your comment is stupid!!!

      April 10, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      you're right.....the black person was the victim.....

      April 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • ladylaw

      ROOTS .. you call yourself Roots but what kind to you have...No all blacks are not victims but you wouldn't understand you did not get whipped because of your skin color, wrong is wrong and right is right regardless of color.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sanny Whemby

      I reckon you haven't heard of any black people decrying black on black violence

      April 11, 2012 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
    • sawitcoming

      You're an ignorant tool.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. James

    Look up ; "NAKWON FOXWORTH" maybe you all can march in front of his house to show your concern for your community. And don't forget to wear your hoodies too.

    Didn't think so.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      and I bet she got arrested too huh.......

      April 10, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • me


      April 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • ynotbefree

      You're hiding behind your white robe and hood with the two holes for eyes. People like you will always think that African Americans are in the wrong and that all others are always right.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Oh for Pete's sake!

    It sure would help if we could all simply agree to one obvious truth, which is that violence happens to all colors, by all colors.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Juanmom

      I totally agree!!

      April 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hal Atosis

    Considering they weren't hired permanently and many times the legal team switches after the first while, why would legal whiz be surprised? Hasn't he been watching years of leftest lawyering shows on network TV the last 20 years?

    April 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Greek American

    You are correct and I agree with you. That was my point. Zimmerman should be arrested regardless of anyone's race in this incident. What happened to my friend made me angry, but not towards any race, rather the people who think like tiki and sit on juries along with the judges and prosecutors who let this happen.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tired of this

    These lawyers probably can't stomach the lynch mobs CNN helped create. Probably bad for their business with frequent death threats. Zimmerman being hard to reach gives them an excuse to quit. Which is why the rats went public to jump off the sinking ship.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      you mean the lynch mob that Zimmerman created........

      April 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tom

    It is all part of their new strategy to get him off on an insanity defense.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • sawitcoming

      You may be on to something there.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Gaston

    The CNN propaganda machine continues! Every day for 6 weeks, CNN has been blasting one-sided blogs to misinform and provoke the public to resort to street justice.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      Normal people are not quite as suggestible as you teafools are.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      @Gaston: Nothing is truer than your words

      April 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sanny Whemby

      And people have accused CNN of doing the opposite

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

    Sanford police chief steps aside and the new chief is black. Talk about stroking the black citizens. I think they refer to that tactic as , a reach around.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dan

    Is it possible that Zimmerman's call to the prosecutor was to tell her where he was so she would not be pressed to have him arrested for fear he would skip? The information I have indicates he is innocent. The lawyer's words from the beginning lead me to believe they wanted a trial and probably for their own benefit. A can't lose case with big publicity. Just a theory.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jammaster

      Not Even close Kojack

      April 10, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Where's Zimmie?

    Trying to avoid the soap Zimm? Don't worry you can get protective custody while in the joint and will not have to worry about the general population..It will give you all the time in the world to think about killing some kid because property is more valuable than life...

    April 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. shawn L

    So they haven't been able to contact him SINCE sunday. It's tuesday. Didn't realize that ONE DAY being out of contact with your lawyer gives the lawyers cause to bail out on you publicly.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cally

    I disagree with Toobin. These attorneys may have helped some of the lynch mob mentality to back down some. They really did a good job laying out a case for self defense. They also helped to build some sympathy for their former client, and they let Zimmerman know (when he sees it on the air) that they believe in him and are there for him if he wants their assistance. The only thing I thought was ill-advised was saying he was not in Florida.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jammaster

      It was a Dog and pony show to gain sympathy. Why claim to not represent him and then spend a half hour defending him on the air?
      I believe the opposite of everything they said.
      Not self defense
      Yes, they know exactly where he is
      Yes, they spoke with him today
      And yes, he is still in Fl.
      And no, not all of us are fools.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
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