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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    The incident took place on a plot of grass with a concrete walk, is the way I read the description. Does anyone know that is wrong? If so; how do they know?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sirned

    Its good to know a racist killer will get a sympathetic ear from Hannity and Fox... Surprise Surprise

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

      You killed someone?

      April 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • SpaceAlien

      Yo, Zimmerman is Hispanic and had friends who were black. If someone was on top of you beating your head into the pavement after smashing your face would you defend yourself? Have you listened to the witnesses? No you havent. Cuz maybe you are the racist

      April 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raven

      And you were there and know exactly what happened huh?

      April 10, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jo@joji.com

    I would definitely not hire these clowns for any legal representation, even if it were pro bono. Sounded like some kind of over the top cover up to a f up on their part.

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

      I am with you on that...these guys are crazy. It look like they just wanted to be on tv. The first thing I noticed was the one showing up with his shades...being cool. Everyone who has come forward on behalf of this guy either never met him or really knows nothing about him.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Patricia Brown-Coleman

    It's so sad that you are in fear! There no person on this earth that I am fearful of and I am 47 and a woman.

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

      Fear the white man.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brownstain

    Zimmy and santorum-blood brothers.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. James

    Zimmerman doesn't have to run. He can walk right out of the country. He is a free man. Not under arrest or indictment. The law works for everyone. He can walk right to Cabo San Lucas.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kim

    Toobin and the rest of you are clueless. Any attorney would have dropped Zimmerman. #1. He called the prosecuter and tried to talk to her behind their backs. #2. He called Sean Hannity and talked to him off the record without his attorneys knowing about this. Sean Hannity of all people when the attorneys have been trying to paint Zimmerman as a man who isn't racist! #3. He's going to tell the prosecuter he can come to Jacksonville and meet with her but won't even tell his lawyers where he is? #4. He's refusing to take their calls and hasn't since Sunday. No attorney is going to be humiliated like this. This may be a high profile case and they may even be seeking 15 minutes of fame but they have proven that not even Zimmerman will make them look like a fool.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Patricia Brown-Coleman

    This is some crazy mess. George Zimmerman was a flight risk since he wasn't arrested for the murder of Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman has probably has left the country and free to kill again!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John

    Who is that guy in the background?\

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

    Wow, if I don't call someone in two days, I certainly don't expect them to hold a press conference denouncing me. I'm just busy!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trevor

      Whats he busy with? No job, no family atm, no friends, people wanting him dead. He catching up on reruns?

      April 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Brownstain

    Charlie manson+Newt= Santorum

    April 10, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jammaster

    Odd that they would publicly state that they have dropped him and then spend half an hour discussing the known evidence bit by bit and defending him.
    I think it was a dog and pony show to gain sympathy for Dim Zim.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lisa

    Maybe he went to Mexico through Juarez and some cartel person will take him out. In a word, KARMA

    April 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joe from Ohio

    Hey Fox! Still think you're on the right side of this one??

    April 10, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Marc from Florida

    The crazyness in this tragedy lay at the feet of CNN and other media outlets that created the circus like atmosphere surrounding this case. The community and political pressures make it impossible to properly investigate this case. It seems everyone has an opinion, few have facts. One thing for sure, the untrained should not be carrying guns.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      I know one fact......Trayvon Martin is dead for no damn reason......

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