George Zimmerman's defense lawyers announced Tuesday they're withdrawing from the case, citing ethics and a series of alleged actions by their former client, taken without their knowledge or consent, Reuters reports.
"We have lost contact with him," attorney Craig Sonner told reporters at a news conference in Sanford, Fla., where Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in February.
Zimmerman, who has not been charged and remains in hiding, claims Martin's killing was justified because it was self-defense. His lawyers said Tuesday they stand by Zimmerman's claim, but then explained why they could no longer represent the 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain.
George Zimmerman's lawyers, Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig, said they last spoke with Zimmerman by phone on Sunday.
The next day, Zimmerman launched a website to raise money for his legal defense and living expenses, since he is no longer employed and cannot find work.
Zimmerman also allegedly telephoned Special Prosecutor Angela Corey's office on Tuesday, one day after the office announced it would not use a grand jury to decide whether to charge Zimmerman. The prosecutor's office declined to speak with Zimmerman without his lawyers, and promptly informed Sonner and Uhrig, Reuters reports.
Finally, Zimmerman also allegedly called Fox News host Sean Hannity for an "off-the-record" conversation, Sonner and Uhrig said. They do not know what was discussed.
Sonner cited ethical concerns in withdrawing as Zimmerman's lawyer. Under Florida's Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer may withdraw if "the client insists upon taking action that the lawyer considers repugnant, imprudent, or with which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement."
There are also situations in which a Florida lawyer must withdraw. They include when a client engages in criminal conduct, or when a lawyer is too physically or mentally impaired to do her job.
Again, Zimmerman hasn't been charged with a crime. But if proceedings had already commenced against him, his lawyers likely would have needed the court's permission to withdraw. In the end, it's the judge's decision.
Attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig said they may represent George Zimmerman again, if he asks them to. But Zimmerman has not returned their calls, text messages, or emails. "He's gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing or who he's talking to," Sonner said, according to the Associated Press.
- George Zimmerman's attorneys withdraw from Trayvon Martin case (MSNBC)
- Is George Zimmerman's New Website a Good Idea? (FindLaw's Strategist)
- Trayvon Martin Prosecutor Won't Use Grand Jury (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Guide to Hiring a Lawyer (FindLaw)