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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    The typical reason a lawyer drops a client accused of a crime is because 1) the lawyer knows the client is guilty, and 2) the client wants the lawyer to help him lie about that in court. Lawyers can't legally do that, so they don't have much choice but to dump them. I think the "lack of communication" was just an excuse by the lawyers to avoid prejudicing their ex-client's case.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      A little too early to determine whether Zimmy is guilty or not, since he hasn't been charged with anything!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Libertarianmilitia

    I am NOT trayvon martin...because I am not throwing skittles and yelling taste the rainbow b***h in a fight....I stay strap....

    April 11, 2012 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. WorldCares

    Zimmerman did ignore the 911 response not to follow Treyvon and he did it anyway.
    He instigated the altercation and killed Treyvon.
    That gun should have never been used.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Nodack

      You say Zimmerman ignored the police. His account of the story says he did call off the following, but Treyvor came up to him demanding to know why he was being followed and proceeded to beat up Zimmerman. When Zimmerman pulled the gun he was on his back getting his head slammed into the pavement by the larger Treyvor.

      You may not believe Zimmermans account, but your only proof of him lying is you preconceived gut feelings. You just think he is lying and therefore his is.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Dandy

      Gee.... ya think?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
    • ramosdr

      You do not know that Zimmerman ignored the 911 advice. You do not know if he started back towards his car and was then accosted by "Trayvon".

      April 11, 2012 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
    • ramosdr

      How do you know this? You are just showing your own bias and pre-conceived notions.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. Nodack

    By the sheer number of people that want him dead I think I would go into hiding too. People already went after his neighbors thinking they had his house. Mob justice mentality. The lawyers were lame to handle it that way.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Nathan K

      We don't have preconceived "gut feelings." We have evidence like the witnesses that saw Zimmerman on top of him, evidence from a phone conversation that Treyvon had. Evidence that discredits Zimmerman in video tapes. So no.. it is not a "gut feeling"

      April 11, 2012 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. shewbox

    trayvon is dead get over it

    April 11, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. Boo Yah!

    Why are you so afraid of having only "one standard" for all?

    April 11, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. bumper

    Where is the discussion when a white person is killed by a black person? Seems to be non-existent-A double standard. Again-What a joke!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
    • sloan

      oh let it go

      April 11, 2012 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. reality

    For white Nazis if blacks get killed than also he is guilty (Trayvon) and when black kills some body in self defense than also he is guilty (Trever) , That's why American system is called racist system.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. Michael Vick©™

    I will have no problem with not arresting Zimmerman if there were no witness around, no 911 tapes, and no police video. Then I'd say to Trayvon Martin's family that their boy was at the wrong place at the wrong time. But that's not the case here. You have tons of evidence creating discrepancies with Zimmerman's story. The funeral director who handled Trayvon's body said there were no bruise mark or cut on Trayvon's fist or hand as in coroner's report. You have many audio forensics who determined the cry for help did not come from Zimmerman with high confidence. The ear witness pointed out that the cry probably came from the boy and not Zimmerman. The police video showed no blood stain on any of Zimmerman's clothings, and no one wearing gloves which was a standard procedure for someone suffering bleeding wounds. There are many indications that Zimmerman was not telling the truth.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
    • cnndoug

      Bruises take time to form, and the longer to form on a thin person. It's common sense. Hit your hand on the table then look at it...no bruise.....but 30 minute or an hour later there it is. The cut was on the back of Zimmerman's head so there is no blood on the front of him...it's more common sense.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Nodack

      So the bloody nose and the gash on the back of Zimmermans head means what? That he tripped? The audio is iffy at best. MSNBC was already busted trying to alter it to sound like Trayver. One witness says Zimmerman was on top of Trayvor. Another says Trayor was on top of him. You are taking the word of a funeral guy over a police forensics expert? If Zimmerman set out to kill a black man as some seem to point out then calling the police beforehand telling them you are following him seems like a dumb idea.

      The evidence points towards whatever side you DECIDE to take.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Boo Yah!

    Time to go, the sewer got full so they're lettin' the rats out!!! Libertarianmil used to get beat up in 5th grad...last grade he attended!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
  11. David

    Irregardless of how tactless it was to abandon their client like that in public, I can't help but wonder if they saw his lack of contact as an easy out from representing one of the most widely disliked people across the country.

    They had nothing but negative PR to gain from representing him, even if he were never to be arrested or convicted.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mountain Goat

    Vick, the audio "expert" has been debunked. You are going off of old and false info on your whole post there. you need to get up to date bud. Eyewitnesses say they SAW Zimmerman yelling for help with Trayvon on top of him. Your "facts" are old, false, and already debunked. Start over dude.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. Michael Vick©™

    I'd bet my NFL career that George Zimmerman is actually on the run, and that special prosecutor Angela Corey will have Zimmerman arrested. I just want to ask the white supremacists and racists out there, if Zimmerman is really innocent, why are you worried that he goes to trial? An unarmed boy is shot dead. Doesn't his death justify a thorough investigation to ascertain that this is indeed self defense when his story is in conflict with the evidence we have so far? And the white supremacists and racists never wanted to answer my question: if Zimmerman were black and Martin were white, do you think Zimmerman would go free?

    April 11, 2012 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
    • ramosdr

      Maybe you need some medicine.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
  14. cjg

    A nut? Not really. I have a better idea....www.guardiannews.com and http://www.reuters.com 😀

    April 11, 2012 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Eisenhower

    Zimmeman's Lawyers are both former prosecutors. They quit because they have ZERO faith in him. Plain and simple.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
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