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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

soundoff (642 Responses)
  1. T. E. Lawrence O. A.

    I have legally carried for years and ALL decisions are important: What is foreseeable? What situations should just be Avoided, no matter of right or wrong? WHAT IS FORESEEABLE!?!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. 2bits

    Lynch mobs are illegal under USA laws in case you forgot but enraged blacks are essentially operating a lynch mob threatening Zimmerman's life. That is illegal and all threats should be investigated under penalty of law. Where is the justice in this? Basically, it's bullying and that is also illegal.

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

    ARTICLE STATES: "If Zimmerman initially provoked the deadly encounter, then he cannot invoke any "stand your ground" defense. He would then be under a legal obligation to "exhaust ... every reasonable means to escape.""

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

    "But For" Zimmerman's decision to initiate, there would have been no shooting. Period. That speaks for itself.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. T. E. Lawrence O. A.

    "BUT FOR" ZIMMERMAN'S DECISION to initiate, no shooting would have occurred. Period.

    All legal and safety training for Concealed Carry states: AVOID AVOID AVOID those foreseeable situations, when you carry.

    Ever hear of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!?!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. fritz

    All I'm really sure about is that one man shot another man dead who was unarmed. The word 'unarmed' is key for me. I don't see how a person with a gun declaring 'self defense' against a person with no weapon at all can just walk away after killing the person. An altercation occurred between these two men leaving one dead and the police needed to get to the bottom of it. They didn't do that basing their reason on the 'stand your ground' rule. Instead, they took his word for it as if he would never tell a lie. That seems ridiculous to me since this altercation was out in a public area and not in anyone's home. A likely charge could be manslaughter, negligent homicide up to second degree murder. A law court has to determine that during trial. He could be exonerated in the killing and walk scott free. But he must be tried first. Just like any of us would be if we shot someone dead who was unarmed..

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

      Finally the voice of reason,it seems though there are lots of Pro Zimmerman self- defense comments when to me if another person is dead,obviously that person Cannot tell his or her side. ANYONE can misuse the Stand Your ground Law,imagine it was around during the heydey of the Mob,they could easily use that law just as gangs would use it. No when someone is dead one person word cannot be taken over another who cannot speak.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. MO Prosecutor

    George Zimmerman has not been questioned recently by the special prosecutor or arrested for that matter. WHY??? They must not have solid evidence against him, I dont think charges will be filled, if they had a smoking gun he wouldnt be still walking around.

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

      Exactly. But you could never convince the racist geniuses that painfully obvious truth.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      The fact is the police lead investigator found enough evidence to recommend having Zimmerman arrested.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
    • sloan

      Then why did he go in hiding,it would have been a matter of time till the procescuter would have resolved this case. The cops just took his word and not made an arrest,how just is that? suppose it was someone you know or cared about,no one can just easily cry self defense especially after manslaughter,

      April 11, 2012 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mr. Doe

    This has all gotten out of hand. Its all about segregation. Stop by this link and voice ur opinion about it.

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Racism-A-sad-truth/397964533547201

    April 11, 2012 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. umcle tom

    We is gonna occupy yo streets. Wiff are hoodies on. And have a birfday party. We gonna gets us some free stuffs from da lootin.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. #stillwaiting

    This conversation is so old arrest him and let the justice system decide whether it was self-defense or cold-blooded murder!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. geroge

    We most certainly live in a double standard society. Weather or not we can honestly admit or not.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Yes, it can be rotten, sometimes, but let's not blame the weather!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:45 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kevin Barbieux

    This case has gotten world wide attention. The people involved will all be able to cash in with book deals, etc. If they are able to make themselves known publicly as pivotal to the case. Thus the show boating.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. Boo Yah!

    Halfbit, now there YOU go stereotyping. Did you associate "LYNCH MOBS" as being operated by Blacks? Please refer to your history books. Blacks as well as people of all races only want justice, not revenge. Few Blacks support the Black Panthers. You see a group of Blacks marching for a cause and they are referred to as an enraged lynch mob. If you can read you should be able to comprehend that ALL the protests throughout the nation have been PEACEFUL. I'm so sorry that you are disappointed.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mountain Goat

    The double standard is crumbling...melting down. The days of racial double standards are numbered. Media really got the shirt ripped off it's back on this one. People are talking about the dishonesty of the mainstream media over this case. There will be more to come because folks are paying attention now. These big name news anchors have compromised the very standards that drew them to journalism. The very standards that were the foundation of their work....Can we ever trust them now that we know they can be bought off by political special interests?

    April 11, 2012 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Harsh

      You are the one having double standards here Mountain Goat. An unarmed kid was killed by an armed man. Yet there has been no arrests in the case, Thats the be all and end all of the case. Now whether the police inaction was prompted by race or shear incompetence is another thing. But all every protestor, every media, ever sane person is calling out is the lack of arrest. Zimmerman can prove his innocence in court and he has every right as a citizen to do it. But the police here have acted as judge and jury and left him go scott free and thats what the hue and cry is about

      April 11, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. bumper

    Run George Run!! You will never get a fair trial in "Being Black In America! What a joke this story is. Still too much racism in America. Will it ever change?

    April 11, 2012 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
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