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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    Zimmerman can run to Mexico, it takes years to extridite people from there on murder charges.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. averagewhiteguy

    Blacks have gone crazy! They want to beat everyone up, take their watches and iphones and not get shot. Give me a break colored people.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe form CT, not Lieberman

      You really need to call your doctor and get back on your meds. If you are going to leave a rant like this, at least pay attention to your grammar and diction. Or are you one of those Republicans who do not believe in education?

      April 10, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • cas

      Change your name to averagewhiteNUT.... ..taking a mugging of a drunk idiot who is flashing $1300 and Audi car keys around poor half sober ghetto kids, I am black and I would not even do that.....racism? I doubt it, definitely not a hate crime.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • cas

      Change your name to averagewhiteNUT.... ..taking a mugging of a drunk idiot who is flashing $1300 and Audi car keys around poor half sober ghetto kids, I am black and I would not even do that.....racism? I doubt it, definitely not a hate crime.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Truth

      It's sad to see you are a racist and don't realize it. Trayvon did none of the above to Zimmerman and got shot, "averagewhiteguy". /if you represent the metality of the average white guy America is doomed.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sanenoneuro

      Whites have gone crazy! They want to take everything, be everywhere, use all the resources by literally tomorrow. Give me a break white people. For you guys to live at your standard, everyone else has to suffer and die (animals, resources, and our planet).

      April 10, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snake

      Please change your name to "averagemoronguy". Stupidest comment I've seen. Oh yeah, I forgot, the ARMED white guy was SO in jeopardy from the unarmed young black kid. Yeah.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • carlyle green

      Sadly my friend its understandable that your quite angry as its obvious Zimmerman is in some way guilty; Really ? Only guilty people contact the prosecutors office without an attorney especially given the magnitude; There really is no need to try to switch,bait,and blame black people for allowing America to sear its conscience in how things have played out. Zimmermans attorneys are ambulance chasers for a future book deal while Zimmerman wants a plea deal; I assume Trayvon's voice is speaking from the grave and Zimmerman can't get his face out of his dreams; I really hope Angela Corey seize this opportunity to throw his but in jail and have his lawyers face the Board of Bar Overseers for their conduct

      April 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. xoxo

    I'm tired of reading about this across every news platform & leaving with the same disheartening feeling afterwards. Tired of reading racist comments... Tired of racism... Tired of prejudice people. George Zimmerman (since I can't prove that he is racist I will say) and PREJUDICE people like him MUST BE STOPPED. No one should be judged in this manner, whether they are white, black, purple, gold it's ridiculous. UGH! Arrest the man! It's one thing to be prejudice... but to allow your stupid, preconceived notions to cause harm and/or violence to another human being, COME THE EFF ON! America needs divine intervention... SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • osbjmg

      Ironically, you've prejudged Zimmerman. I agree racism is frustrating, but in reality I don't think it ever didn't exist nor will it ever cease to exist. People pre judge to go into a situation with some expectation. Acting irrationally or hating someone based on some prejudices is clearly wrong. However, stereotyping internally (to yourself) is a self preservation tactic, and only makes sense.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • bitterjack

      Take heart hugs & kisses, the end is near. And like the song says, "...in the end, it doesn't even matter."

      April 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SafeJourney

    Zimmerman is running. The Attorneys know this and it is their butts if they continue to represent him.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. manofgod


    April 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Me

    Black people rock, contrary to popular belief. Of course, a racist person's defense is to bring up all the negative black people and allow that to overshadow the positive blacks. LOL. God bless you all.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bobby yo

    Absolutely no reason for racial profiling: http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/28/justice/florida-tourists-murder-trial/index.html?iref=obnetwork

    April 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DoratheExplorer

    @ObjectiveGuy – Please post the link or direct me to the location that I find the thug pictures of Trayvon. I can't seem to find them and question whether they exist.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • SafeJourney

      Michelle Malkin of faux news posted them on her web site but had to take them down because they were fake

      April 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • carlyle green

      Here's a link of the bully Zimmerman though:


      April 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. James

    Zimmean doesn't have to run... he can walk right out of the country if he chooses.

    He is a free man, not under arrest or indictment. Nobody can stop him from going anywhere. See the law works for everyone.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. SKM

    Zimmerman's probably halfway to Canada by now. Nobody knows where he is. That's kind of a problem, isn't it??

    April 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Brownstain

    Maybe Zimmy could change places with Charlie Manson?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. T'sah From Virginia

    First of all, if Zimmerman is brought to justice and is found innocent – I beg that the Black community to NOT get violent in any way. The way we beat this is 1) Keep protesting to get rid of the "Stand Your Ground" law; don't stop and constantly stay on the lawmakers until it gets done. 2) VOTE!!!!!!! I can safely say that Black people don't vote enough... I know this for a fact; I am Black and know a lot of other Blacks. I beg family and friends to get out and vote all the way down to picking superintendents in schools.... PERIOD – Judges, DAs, etc., all of them affect our lives! Blacks feel that they should only vote during a presidential election and "possibly" a governor election and we need more than that. Get your photo IDs; make sure you have your voter registration card in place and do this NOW – Not November 5, 2012!!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • pete

      well said bro

      April 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Richard Cheese

    "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.’ GEE, YA THINK??? He should have been arrested the night of the murder.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jeffrey desir

    Whether you like it or not racism exist until it stops and we as blacks gets equal rights and work in our unity we will still point out racism. That like saying jews stop talking about the holacaust or stop talking about pearl harbor and get over us vets

    April 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. the god of all lawyers


    THIS IS I=N=S=A=N=E!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
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