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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    If Toobin had actually listened to the attorneys he would know that Z called the special prosecutor and asked for a meeting!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JPS

    If you act like a thug you die like one.

    Zimmerman is a hero!!! If a thug attacks you – you have the right to blow his ass away – PERIOD.

    We should all be so brave!! We all need to take up arms against all thuggish criminals – that's what needs to GIVE xoxo.

    We don't need divine intervention – we need more Smith & Wesson intervention.

    More guns = less thugs = less violence.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      A true American hero on the run? That doesn't sound right.

      I'd agree with you but the evidence we have so far doesn't seem to support Zimmerman's self defense story. The guy got jumped by a kid 110 pounds lighter after they have a conversation: "Do you have a problem?" "No" "You do now!". I question that person's qualification to be neighborhood patrol if a kid can sneak a sucker punch after that kind of conversation. And Trayvon Martin died on wet grass, which was quite a distance away from the SUV or concrete. His stories don't even add up.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • another1

      wow, you are fully expressing your ignorance and racial hatred. way to go moron.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • TH

      You're an idiot.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • erin andrews perky breasts

      wow you're a moron

      April 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Johnny Yuma61

    Jeffrey Toobin is the best that you got CNN? Really? Martin came back after Zimmerman. Martin knocked him down and proceeded to beat his head into the sidewalk. I would have shot him too.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jorge

    Please! A medal for Zimmerman!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • JPS

      YES YES YES!!
      He is a true American hero!!!
      He took out a thug!!!

      April 10, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • cookee

      If Mr. Z. was attacked by Mr. Martin the way he described to the authorities, he didn't seem to sustain any real, visible injuries, at least none that I saw in the video of him being led away in handcuffs. A tad odd.

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

      Please, a straight-jacket for you.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brad

    They heard an ambulance in the distance and had to get chasin'

    April 10, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Big Bubba

    Its nice in Costa Rica. Zimmerman is a free man. He can walk wherever he wants. Too bad he needs to hide from black panthers (lol) black community watch organization.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. The Truth

    Man what's the point of having a "Report Abuse" button if the moderators have been a sleep for 2 days. So many racist rants in this thread by both blacks and whites. Anyway I will stop feeding the fire, to all racist black and white, their will be a special place in hell for you 🙂 .

    April 10, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      Poor little baby gets upset by the truth...

      April 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jorge

    Zimmerman should get the Congressional Medal of Honor for taking down that thug. Good work George!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dale

      Zimmerman is a criminal. Charge him as such!

      April 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • cookee

      Not sure if that's what Mr. Z. deserves.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      he would definitely get one if he takes you out.....

      April 10, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jacques lepin

    Seems like his legal team got tired of zimmerman jerking them around. if you watched the earlier interviews throughout this process, his attorneys always seemed to be in the dark. It wasn't that they knew stuff and couldn't relate it to the press, they didn't know anything. A lot of the times the answers they gave was "we have not discussed that with out client" I think they were in the dark on a regular basis and zimmerman's lack of cooperation made them look like buffoons. I think they felt embarrassed and humiliated and came out on camera to publically dump zimmerman to absolve themselves of dealing with the situation in any form or fashion henceforth.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Big Bubba

    What we need in this country is some white panthers. (lol) klan

    April 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. caliz

    have a feeling that there's more to this story than these lawyers are telling us. Zimmerman's camp seem to be imploding for some reason. Could it be that their cover ups and lies are now unravelling as the investigation goes?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jubril

    I will not approach this lawyers to fight a traffic Ticket, They are a bunch of "ghetto" lawyers. Why do a media presentation to say you can't find your client. That is wrong. I don't support Zimmerman but this is ethically wrong

    April 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jsinAtl

    Why does this story cover only the first part of today's announcement? The lawyers lay out this case in support of Zimmerman, offering damning arguments against Martin, Martin supporters and the media. Why is that part not being discussed in news stories?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. To_Da_Posting_Clowns

    This is for the clowns, JPS, Jorge & John Johnny, according to your own observation, when applied, shouldn't it have been Zimmerman lying in a morgue and not Trayvon? With his criminal record and history of violence, it's Zimmerman who best fits the term "thug."

    April 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. caliz

    I have a feeling that there's more to this story than these lawyers are telling us. Zimmerman's camp seem to be imploding for some reason. Could it be that their cover ups and lies are now unravelling as the investigation goes?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
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