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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    I am Hispanic so the argument of prejudice does not work with me. Let me first say that African Americans who do things like this are upholding the stereo type of "dangerous violent blacks" this is why they are treated the way they are and I'm tired of feeling an obligation to be politically correct, this is simply the fact when you act like a pack of wild dogs you get treated this way. I live in the city and most of the crime and violence is committed by blacks and Hispanics, sad but it's the truth. Instead of joining in the hate tell your own people to stop the violence and the black panthers are you kidding? have you heard what this "organization" has been saying? as far as I am concerned it's a terrorist organization calling for "blood shed and suiting up and booting up" it's absolutely retarded. The truth is not something the majority wants to face and again being Hispanic I can say from experience that the majority of crimes are committed by the stereotype so instead of complaining about being discriminated against DO SOMETHING TO CHANGE IT by telling those of your race who listen to "music" with lyrics about beating people or shooting people "thug life" or degrading woman to stop, what do you think these kids think of when they have those words constantly going through there mind. Stop hanging around the street corner selling drugs and do not take part in speaking like a moron who does not know proper English, become something more and you will receive more I did and so did my family and we rose above it. Blacks who fit this stereotype degrade themselves and should be marching against there own kind, it's not a culture its an abomination. Have you ever met Africans from Africa and seen the difference? that's a culture African Americans need to stop creating this Idea of separation they do it themselves.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Johnny Yuma61

    If a guy was beating my head into concrete, and I had a gun, I'd shoot him too. Plain and simple.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • klangster

      if a guy with a gun followed me then attacked me I would beat his head into the concrete in an attempt to stop hmi from shooting me, it's called self defense

      April 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      The problem is Trayvon Martin was found dead quite far from concrete or the SUV Zimmerman allegedly was jumped on.. In fact, Martin was dead on grass. Zimmerman's lawyer mentioned his jacket was wet. So at most we have Trayvon Martin beating Zimmerman's head to the grass. That's hardly life threatening. Bottom line is, the stories don't add up.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bman

      You are a loser I'd beat your head into some concrete with a gun just so you know what it feels like.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • ddimon

      We don't know that Trayvonn beat his head into the ground. We do know that Zimmermann started the altercation. Simple as that

      April 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • salad_mander

      but what if you were getting your head beat into the concrete after you followed a person and confronted them with a gun, only to wind up on your ass after a getting socked by a person scared for their life? ever thought about that?

      April 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carolyn

      If you saw Z's picture a few hours after he shot T, he looked fine, not like anything much had happened to him

      April 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Juggalo 6

    Nice omission of IMPORTANT facts again, CNN. The lawyers said Zimmerman talked to the prosecutor, and for all we know she may have flat out told him that she does not have enough evidence to charge him with a crime so he should get out of town. The Black Panthers are attempting to incite violence against him, which they should be criminally charged for, but CNN ignores that too. Why always the mention of race? Someone got killed, it was self defense, but why constantly the mention of race? Is that what your emperor Obama wants you to do, seeing how he said not to rush to judgement in the Fort Hood shooting but did not encourage the same restraint in this case.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • theobvious

      Don't forget that nutjob spoke to Sean Hannity too. Just stating facts.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • klangster

      no mention of the white supremacist neo nazi group stormfront that is raising money for Zimmerman

      April 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • T'sah From Virginia

      ►The lawyers said Zimmerman talked to the prosecutor, and for all we know she may have flat out told him that she does not have enough evidence to charge him◄

      Actually, the prosecutor would not speak to him because he didn't have representation.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • zomax

      Emperor Obama?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • SafeJourney

      Jug, Zimm called the DA, but she DID NOT talk to him

      April 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Essie

      @Juggalow IQ 6....SHUT UP!! You make no sense at all! Go play in traffic...

      April 11, 2012 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
    • sawitcoming

      How is it not about race when Zimmerman was paranoid about BLACK MEN robbing the neighborhood? "They always get away?" and all that? Please. Of course it's about race. Dumb white folk who want to convince themselves that this is some kind of colorblind utopia meritocracy founded in goodness and light are the ones trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. This is America. You know what's up Jr. Klansman.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sherlock

    Me thinks that zimmerman has finally decided to kill himself and face God. Let's hope that's what happened. If so, God will give zimmerman the proper judgement. Trayvon martin will be one to pull zimmerman to the lake of fire and start an enternal fight that'll never end! Go martin go! beat up zimmerman, your killer! You get your justice for real boy!

    April 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Did you take the special bus to school this morning?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • sawitcoming

      Just why would Martin be in hell?

      April 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Malibu123

    Trayvon Martin: the single biggest story in the history of the world. Keep it going CNN, milk it for everything it's worth.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. James

    Wa Wa Wa black people are always the victims of white white racists, white Hispanic racists and white african american racists. Stop crying already, who cares?

    April 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. nicesty48

    All I can say is Lord have mercy on Zimmerman because Tryvonn Martin at PEACE and in the arms of the Lord. No matter what we all may think, do or say, he is in a better place.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Really? You know his heart then? You appear to have more insight into Trayvon's spiritual status then anyone else does. Good for you.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. hamsta

    so you mean they can arrest, hold and charge a friend of mine with murder for killing a robber inside of his home but they cant arrest a man on the street who was told not to follow a suspect?

    April 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ssheldonblog

    Pure speculation here but maybe they are trying to force the prosecutors hand, get them to rush, go in for the glory and blow it by not being prepared. Casey Anthony's case seems to have been blown in this manner. Hopefully lessons were learned there and in this instance due process will be followed in a patient well thought out manner.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mariosphere

    If I were Zimmerman, I would have fired these lawyers. Wait a second! Maybe he did.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sarahsmart

    Bet he runs...he will end up in Peru and it will be on Corey...she better get that warrant ASAP

    April 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bman

    I think the Lawyers are trying to cover their butz. He fled possibly out of the country. They were responsible. Their law licenses are in the grinder now.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • zomax

      Attorneys are not responsible when a client flees a jurisdiction. No licenses are at risk, if he did in fact run.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hmm!

    Very odd, seems to me that the normal course here is silence. Maybe Zimmerman has gone back to Peru and the attornies are just teeing up the we were not informed excuse.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sherri

    I don't believe for one minute that these lawyers don't have a clue as to their client's whereabouts.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. hamsta

    @ juggalo 6 good question.thats one of the reasons i truly believe obama is a muslim terrorist.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • theobvious


      April 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Essie

      @hamsta....Don't you have a round treadmill you should be running on, and not posting ridiculous comments about our wonderful President!! Clearly, he doesn't care what you think about him...nor do the rest of us!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:54 am | Report abuse |
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