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I have ever seen," Toobin said about Tuesday's announcement by attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner that they have withdrawn as counsel for Zimmerman.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

    The truth will prevail. One day Zimmerman will be our President!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • jacques lepin

      Somewhere in heaven jesus just facepalmed in response to your statement.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Elaine

    @ObjectiveGuy, there are plenty pics of Trayvon as a 17 year old and they are NOT thuggish. The real question is why isn't CNN and other media outlets not showing those pics. There are some independent news outlets that have been showing more recent photos of Trayvon. By the way, what does a thug look like. The REAL thugs that we need to be worried about, wear business suits and not hoodies. A thug is a mental state of mind, not a dress code.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      I agree with you Elaine. People forget that Zimmerman has a criminal record and has history of domestic violence. He also made at least 46 false alarm 911 calls. But racists kept making up lies. I remember when the story broke out, racists were saying Trayvon Martin was using that 23 oz ice tea can to beat up George Zimmerman. Then racists made up stories about Martin suspended for drugs, when the fact was he was caught for having residual of substance used by George W Bush. All these smearing campaign doesn't change the fact that school teacher said Martin was gentle kid, and his football coach also said he was a good kid.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Vinnie

    I can on believe that the lawyers felt USED by Zimmerman. By not meeting or ever seeing him, and the lawyers spoke for him which gave Zimmerman time to leave the country. Make my word he is gone. And now the lawyers are trying to save there face and careers by plasting him. No way should these lawyers ever accepted an agreement with a phone call and no face to face meetings. Bull...

    April 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. gwats

    Just find this guy, lock him up or put him in a safe house till all of this can be figured out. I have no love for this boy, but he ends up dead, we are never going to hear the truth, no not the crap he's spinning, but the real truth which may take some time to find, given all the professional liars in the room

    April 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Greek American

    Was your comment asking me about my earlier post on the jury?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Glynne1964

    First of all, Sunday was Easter...today is only TUESDAY. For them to have put together this press confrence they must have decided in like 24 hours or less that Zimmerman had lost it. Have they checked with family, friends, even hospitals? Maybe he is in seclusion for a reason...tired of all the press hounding him?

    Also the lawyers should really think about their CLIENT first.
    1. They decided he slipped a cog or something in 24 hrs. or less.
    2. They went to the PRESS???? Is that in the best interest of THEIR CLIENT? Doing what they did in the manner in which the did shows a lack of professionalism. To claim they still believe in their client but hang him out to dry publicly? NICE!
    3. Zimmerman has NOT been charged. He is NOT out on bond. I never heard of him being told DON'T leave FL, don't leave USA. Does that not equate him being a free man?
    4. What IF something happened to him? Wasn't there a bounty out on his head? What if he decided it was too much? And they just haven't found the body yet. How stupid with those lawyers feel then???

    Don't see these lawyers being the best & the brightest...that's for damn sure. Hopefully this can all be worked out. Cause like him or not. Think he's guilty or not...he DOES have people who love him. Also justice cannot be served if someone has taken it into their own hands. So this leaves NO ONE a winner.

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

      Agree. Totally unethical behavior by the attys. THey should hear from the bar assn on this

      April 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • HZ

      Sounds to me the lawyers know exactly what z is doing and they felt pressure to do a news conference in a hurry so they can off the hook.....

      April 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tootough Abe Reles1

    This is an open note to George Zimmerman:

    George, If I were you I would go as far away as fast as I could where I will not be extradited. They are caving in to Black pressure and coming for you. You saved your life by using your firearm – don't let them make you a victim and crucify you in public for defending yourself from this angry, sullen, hormonal teenager!

    Go George, before they make an example of you!!

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

      Justice is not "caving in to black pressure." Yeah, go ahead Zimmerman, act like a Nazi and run from your appointed date with judgment.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • breakanotherlaw

      So, you're telling him to run... only the guilty run from the truth. If he is innocent, let him prove it. And by the way, your description of a sullen teenager fits the description of most teenagers in America. I guess it's okay to blow them away for walking home too???? Hmmmmm....

      April 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thegoodman

      This is an open note to Tootough Abe Reles1:

      You are a lunatic and morally corrupt person if you think confronting and shooting a teenager is acceptable. Shame on you and your family. I hope you never lose a loved one by unnecessary violence, but if you do, I hope you reflect on this day and change your mind.

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

      @Thegoodman – If that hormonal teenager, or what ever age, is actin like a thug and threatening your life trying to kill you – NO MATTER WHAT COLOR HE IS – you as an American citizen have the right to blow his brains out. PERIOD.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sirned

    Zimmerman is showing exactly what most of us deduced from videos and his own voice on tape.... Oh and his continuing changing stories too.... He needs to be arrested like anyone else would have been and be tried not in the media but by a court of law...That's how this country works...The rule of law...

    April 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dave

    It's not bizarre. They realize Zimmerman's guilt when they see it.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dale

      You are right–they see his guilt!

      April 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dale

    In football terms, what Zimmerman's attorneys did is called a "punt". The guy is guilty. Run, lawyers, run.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tcaros

    Even his lawyers bailed.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Todd

    Totally unethical for defense attys to announce this publicly. THey are clearly in it for headlines, they they be disciplined by the flo. state bar for this

    April 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |

    Zimmerman knows the "Stand your ground" law and played his cards perfectly. Because of this, we the public, will never know the truth.
    By shooting and killing someone because you're getting your ass handed to you by a kid half your size is pathetic. I would be hiding to if I were George – that's embarrassing for him

    April 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      HILLBILLY, I wouldn't say he played that card perfectly. When you make stuff up, there are bound to be holes. Clearly we're seeing tons of holes in his stories. Even if we don't know what really happened. those fabricated stories don't add up with the evidence.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. T'sah From Virginia

    I think Zimmerman went home and broke his own nose then went to the emergency room the next day in order to justify the lie he told. He may have had "grass" bruises on his head but it wasn't enough to require him to go to the hospital that evening. But then again, his lawyers said he was suffering from "shaking head syndrome." His brother said that one more hit on the head would have made him a vegetable?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      I'm pretty sure banging his head against wet grass is considered life threatening. If Zimmerman could be jumped by a kid 110 pounds lighter, then he should not even be in the neighborhood watch, let alone owning a gun.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. derriquestuckey

    The reports I'm hearing are that Zimmerman's lawyers are backing down, because their own families are now being threatened.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      Really Derrique es Turkey? Where did you get the reports? from KKK or skinhead websites?

      April 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
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