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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    Now I understand why you have trouble reading defenses....

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

    These lawyers should do something really ethical, like becoming a paid TV pundit who is quoted in a "news" story by his own network, which includes the pundit's verbatim tweets that call a criminal suspect by a cute nickname.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mountain Goat

    Vick we are still wondering if we should believe that you now care about dogs...So forgive me if your so called concern for this kid eludes me. I am of the opinion that any interest you have in this is purely racial.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. randy

    Everybodys an expert the only people who knew what happen is Martin and Zimmerman and Martin cant talk so I believe Zimmerman the punk guy probably got smart with him and started beating him up you dont have to believe what I am saying just my to cents and hety Cnn there is more news out there besides this story report on it and give this a rest.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Essie

      @Randy...SHUT UP!!! If you don't like what's on the news, then turn it OFF! And BTW, your analogy of the event sounds as crazy as you do!!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. cnndoug

    It's Zimmermans's 'right' to walk down a sidewalk in his gated community behind Trayvon or anyone else. It is public sidewalk for the community. If following down a sidewalk is illegal then every guy would be in jail for following a hot girl!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      Give me your address and I'll carry a gun and stalk you and harrass you. I need you to tell me that your life is not in danger and you don't have the right to stand your ground.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Essie

      @cnndoug...we call people who do that "stalkers & perverts!" ...WOW! People like yourself shouldn't say what you think...it comes across as FOOLISHNESS!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:16 am | Report abuse |
    • cnndoug

      Essie, It is your percection of what a stalker is. You are stereotyping Zimmerman by saying that. In America anyone can walk anywhere anytime down a public sidewalk in front or behind anyone.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
    • NoKidding

      Personally I would feel very concerned about my safety if I was being followed by somebody/anybody at night. Whether I'm walking or driving in my car. I would not know the intentions of that person and I should be on my guards. I'd be stupid not to be concerned. People usually become victims when they don't pay attention to what's around them.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. jay

    why is everyone making this trayvon guy out to be a poor innocent child who got shot...he is not a child..he is 17 years old and had been suspended from school for vandalism...hmmmm..i dont think he was this little innocent kid walking around with his skittles that everyone is making him out to be....if i were part of a neighborhood watch program and someone was walking around in my neighborhood at night wearing a hoodie...i would be a little nervous too...this witch hunt mentality that al sharpton and jesse jackson are stirring up is just not right..!!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      Hey jay, you forgot to mention that Trayvon Martin was also suspended for skipping school, AKA cutting classes. I also read that he failed algebra and had a grade point average of D. Don't forget, his only other suspension was possessing residue of the substance used by your favorite president George W Bush. His school teachers said he's a good kid, very subdued and not the type to be confrontational or violent. His football coach seconded that assessment. But hey, graffiti, cutting classes, and following footsteps of George W Bush clearly tells us that this Trayvon Martin is a very very bad kid, and deserves to die.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. jAZ

    Attention Mountain Goat..!!!. NONE OF US HAVE THE FACTS!!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. LoveDrop

    So the lawyers have dropped him, but who is the press to already blamed him and sentenced him as a killer. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty in this country of ours?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
    • J. Kelly

      You can't prove guilt or innocence without charges.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. Michael Vick©™

    Mountain Goat you need to stop posting fake information. I've caught so many racists posting fake information. One had Trayvon using 23oz ice tea as weapon to attack Zimmerman. One had Trayvon suspended for punching school bus driver. Many tried to make him shorter and heavier, while making Zimmerman taller and lighter. Many also tried to increase the number of Martin's school suspensions, a record that school should not made public. And today I caught you lying about Zimmerman's criminal record. He was guilty for punching police officer and you claimed it was police officer's fault. I'm just glad you didn't try to explain his domestic violence incidents.

    And you still haven't answered the question. If Zimmerman were black and Martin were white, do you think Zimmerman would go free? Can anyone go free after killing an unarmed boy because the shooter claims self defense and evidence puts that story in doubt?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jack

    Most of u are speculating...yea he could be hiding, but he could of also been kidnapped and buried alive. The incident was self defense. And if u keep focusing on what race was what, you are only gona add gas to a fire. Maybe the dude is scared, ui have no freaking clue. What I know is, some dude got in a fight and shot the kid. The gun if registerered should indicate legal use of a weapon. Maybe he's a psycho that went out and killed the porr guy, all I know is that someone died, and people are attacking the system when they see "injustice". Always put urself in someone elses shoes. Try to imagine without being racist.

    Guy from LA

    April 11, 2012 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      Jack, how do you know this was a case of self defense? Oh, I got it. Because Zimmerman said so.

      And you do not know Florida law. Zimmerman is required to have a separate license for having the gun as neighborhood watch patrol. He does not. This is not to pick bones, but he was not authorized under the capacity as neighborhood watch to carry a gun.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
    • J. Kelly

      Don't you get it? This audience think without being racist. The USA was founded on racism and millions were murdered so that you could be here now. Racism makes them think they are protected from the world that's closing in.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
    • J. Kelly

      Don't you get it? This audience think without being racist? The USA was founded on racism and millions were murdered so that you could be here now. Racism makes them think they are protected from the world that's closing in.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. jAZ

    No one is trying to make Trayvon into an innocnet child, but we do know that trayvon was not in possesion of a gun, nor was he trespassing.. Lets wait for the prosecutor to present the evidence this week before we ALL rush to judgement..

    April 11, 2012 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mountain Goat

    Vick, I'm guessing that you must be getting your info straight from Al Sharpton's newsletter....or Maybe you hang out with Spike Lee?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
    • J. Kelly

      Well, he's definitely not getting info from that crackhead Rush Limbaugh.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mountain Goat

    I remember a game where you like ran for 150yds and passed for 400yds....you remember that one?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. Michael Vick©™

    Moutain Goat: I personally don't give a 5h!t about dogs. In fact, I cook them and eat them. They are delicious. But seriously, what I killed was killer dogs pitbulls. PETA makes it sound like I kill labradors or chihuahuas. But it's against the law and I paid my dues in jail. There are tons of thugs, criminals, drug dealers, rapists in NFL who never received any punishment or jail time. As you found out last week there are people out there to cause serious injury to other fellow NFL players. I have never harm a person. So there you go.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ann

    I'm sure I'm not the first to ask, but have they searched Zimmerman's house? Maybe he committed suicide.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
    • cnndoug

      Mr. Zimmerman and his wife have moved out. Supposidly to another state.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      It had better not be a suicide. He must be alive to answer for his crime. But you and I both know that if Angela Corey indicts him, he will definitely be on the run. That's fine with me too. We'll use thugs to chase after thug Zimmerman. He will have a unequivocal opportunity to use his knowledge in self defense and stand your ground law to fight off the thugs like black panthers. I actually don't care if he takes out some of the black panther members. But knowing the white supremacists and racists out there, some of the people posting cnn will actually join Zimmerman. If you believe in a man you will most likely join the man. NRA will love this. We just sit back and enjoy the show.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25