George Zimmerman's lawyers resign

 

Sanford, Florida

Fears are growing over the wellbeing of George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, after his lawyers announced that they have decided to resign, having lost all contact with him.

Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig, the attorneys who have represented Zimmerman since the case exploded onto the national stage, said they had no idea where their former client now was, and feared he was “emotionally crippled” by the extraordinary pressures of the case.

In a bizarre, early-evening press conference outside Seminole County Courthouse in central Sanford, the duo announced that they were unable to continue acting on behalf of a client whose behaviour has become increasingly erratic and who they believe may be suffering from PTSD.

“He’s gone on his own. I’m not sure what he’s doing, or who he’s talking to,” said Sonner, who said his last contact with Zimmerman had been on Sunday. “I’ve lost count of how many messages we’ve sent him. But whenever we call, the phone goes to voicemail.”

The 27-year-old neighbourhood watch volunteer, who shot Martin in a gated community in late February, has been forced out of his home and has not returned to work since the incident became a national talking point. A special prosecutor brought in to review the case said last night that she will announce whether he should face criminal charges over the killing by the close of play on Friday.

In the last 48 hours, Sonner and Uhrig revealed that they have been astounded and concerned by Zimmerman’s behaviour. On Monday, he launched a strange personal fundraising website, apparently without warning them, and yesterday, he telephoned Sean Hannity, a right-wing pundit for Fox News for an “off the record” conversation, again without seeking their say-so.

They believe he has spent too long holed-up in hiding, watching wall-to-wall coverage of the case, which sparked worldwide debate. They are of the opinion that the experience of becoming an overnight hate figure has left him psychologically scarred and in need of professional counselling.

“This has been a terribly corrosive process,” said Uhrig. “George Zimmerman is not doing well emotionally, is probably suffering PTSD, and may also have lost a lot of weight... He may not be in complete control of what’s going on. We are concerned for his emotional and physical safety.”

“Sadly, he can’t get in car to drive to psychologist. There’s a bounty on his head. He probably watches more of the media coverage of this than he should. He’s emotionally alone, and you might even say emotionally crippled.”

The final straw which prompted them to quit appears to have occurred on Wednesday when Zimmerman decided to personally telephone the special prosecutor Angela Corey’s office, asking to discuss the case. She declined to speak with him, since prosecutors are forbidden from conversing with potential defendants without their lawyers present.

“As a defence attorney, I can’t have my client simply going off to talk to the prosecutor,” said Uhrig. “After two days of not speaking with him, I just can’t carry on. It wouldn’t be ethical for me to carry on holding myself out as his attorney when he won’t return calls, won’t return emails, won’t return texts, when I know his phone is working.”

Uhrig and Sonner’s resignation for the time being leaves Zimmerman without legal counsel. His exact location is unknown to anyone except perhaps his father and brother. Uhrig insists that he remained in the USA, but added: “For those engaged in the late easter egg hunt looking for him, he’s not in Florida. It’s a lot further away than that.”

Though they are no longer Zimmerman’s lawyers, Uhrig and Sonner, who had agreed to act pro bono until such time as charges were filed, said that they remain convinced of his innocence of any criminal offence.

They support his claim to have shot Martin in self-defence, after being attacked, and argue that he's therefore protected by Florida’s now-notorious “Stand Your Ground” law, which in a conflict situation allows someone who did not strike the first blow to use lethal force if they believe their safety is in immediate danger.

The news of their resignation has nonetheless  caused concern among Martin’s relatives, who say they are worried about Zimmerman’s state-of-mind and believe he may attempt to flee the country before charges are announced on Friday.

“The family is deeply worried that George Zimmerman is currently unaccounted for, and concerned that he could present a flight risk,” said their attorney last night.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
The RBS Six Nations trophy at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Ireland vs England
rugby
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?