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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    The leftist media reports that Zimmerman was arrested for assaulting a police officer some time ago. What they didn't tell you was that he was NOT CHARGED as it was the cops fault!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      If it was cops fault then why did he plead guilty and ended up serving community service?

      I agree. Zimmerman does not need those idiotic lawyers. What he really need is Mountain Goat.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mountain Goat

    What's relevant? Ok genius, let me spell it out for you....If your media is selectively reporting facts so as to deceive people, then you need to hold them accountable for all the reporting. The stuff you are buying into is corrupted as well. Do you understand that?

    April 11, 2012 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      Bear with me, let me understand this. Zimmerman's public record which shows his criminal history and domestic violence and 46 false alarm 911 calls are all irrelevant. But Trayvon Martin doing what George W Bush was doing is very relevant. Trayvon Martin's suspension for graffiti is also very relevant. But how racists manged to invade a dead boy's privacy is totally irrelevant. As long as the racists can find someone in the high school willing to leak the private records, it's all good.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      In order to smear Trayvon Martin to the point where people will think he deserved to die, the racists had to break laws obtaining records they should not have access to. But for what it's worth, let's review what Trayvon Martin was suspended for all those 3 times. Once was for skipping school. Oh my god, that's really bad. I can't tell you how many classes I skipped in college. But let's move on. Once was for graffiti. Oh my god, that really shows violent behavior. The last one was for having residue of the substance used by George W Bush. Wasn't GW Bush a role model for many red necks? Well, now you want Trayvon Martin to pay for it.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  3. Boo Yah!

    Jefffbo you really need to travel more often. Stop allowing your neighbors to hold you back. I'm sure you've heard of "white flight". You sound like a wuss anyway, it seems you are the victim of bullying. Seek help.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  4. Boo Yah!

    Hey Mountie, ...uhhhh NO!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
  5. pee

    If you set a fire,and you later find out that is burning towards your direction to burn you up ,what would you do? I think you will run to safety.I think thus what is happening with Zimmerman.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    Toobin: you are a disgrace to CNN. This is a mans life your screwing with. You are a bully.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dave

    Switching from CNN. Not credible. I'll come back when they fire you.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. John Smith

    Both these boneheads set themselves up for a law suit and discipline by the bar if they don't have a release statement from Zimmerman. Everything about Florida is stupid. Always has been, always will be.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mountain Goat

    It's like you guys were promised this great gift...the head of Zimmerman on a silver platter. Trouble is that your misguided revrends, celebrities, and pathetic news organizations cannot deliver the goods. What will you do? Here's a suggestion, stop promoting racism, and genuinely pursue the facts instead of latching on to what you would like to believe.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  10. T. E. Lawrence O. A.

    TEA PARTY gathers and it's
    a "RALLY".

    Black community gathers and
    it's a "MOB"!?!

    You have to explain that one...

    April 11, 2012 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Mountain Goat

      Nancy Pelosi called the Tea Party gathering a mob....SOO??

      April 11, 2012 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Billbo

      No. Niger community gathers and it's a "TRIBE".
      Get it straight.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. T. E. Lawrence O. A.

    "Carry a gun? Then ALWAYS Look ahead when making decisions and always ask: WHAT IS FORESEEABLE!?!"

    April 11, 2012 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. T. E. Lawrence O. A.

    PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY: Taking responsibility for a decision to carry a gun and then pursue / confront a stranger when that is FORESEEABLE to result in a problem, fight or escalation – YOU CANNOT CREATE THE SITUATION YOU THEN USE AS A SELF DEFENSE CLAIM! Anyone want to trade places with Zimmerman?

    April 11, 2012 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      I ask you one simple question. Suppose you found out a stalker who's harrassing you and is carrying a gun, and you're close enough. I don't know about you, but I'd defend myself by attacking this stalker and going for his gun. We're talking about someone who is not in uniform and is neither police or security guard. Wouldn't you feel your life is threatened?

      By law Zimmerman must properly conceal his gun. Florida law requires that Zimmerman have a separate license for the job. He does not have one for his duty as neighborhood watch, and HOA did not grant him the use of gun.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. T. E. Lawrence O. A.

    "BUT FOR" ZIMMERMAN'S DECISION to NOT stay in the car, no shooting. Period. All legal and safety training for Concealed Carry states: AVOID AVOID AVOID, when you carry.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. T. E. Lawrence O. A.

    ALL STATE LAWS used to have a "Duty to Flee". 'Stand Your Ground' is a modification, not a new law – it deletes that requirement. Why? Why WAS a Duty to Flee such a necessary part of Self Defense Law that every State included it?

    April 11, 2012 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  15. T. E. Lawrence O. A.

    Zimmerman's decision to initiate contact with Trevon Martin was THE MAIN DECISION which created that deadly situation. To put it in classical argument context, 'But For' Zimmerman's decision, there have been no shooting.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Mountain Goat

      You can backtrack the timeline in almost any situation and label many "turning points" That is just a lame argument.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
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