The Trayvon Martin case took a dramatic and unexpected turn Tuesday afternoon when George Zimmerman's legal team held a hastily convened press conference to announce they are no longer representing him.
Mr. Zimmerman, who has not spoken publicly since he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon in February, is currently the target of an investigation by a special prosecutor to determine whether he will face charges stemming from the shooting. Zimmerman has said he was acting in self-defense.
Attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner have been speaking on his behalf to the national media. But in their surprising press conference Tuesday, they revealed that since Sunday, Zimmerman has not returned any of their calls, e-mails, or text messages.
"I've lost contact with him at this point," said Mr. Sonner.
Zimmerman has also been acting in somewhat bizarre ways, his attorneys said, including contacting the special prosecutor, Angela Corey, directly – which his attorneys say they never would have advised him to do – as well as Fox News' Sean Hannity.
Dropping a client (unlike firing an attorney) is not always a straightforward action. But lack of communication is a valid reason. Moreover, in the press conference Mr. Uhrig and Sonner revealed that they were never officially retained. A signed letter making their representation official that Zimmerman told them was in the mail never arrived.
The two attorneys said that they found out about Zimmerman contacting the special prosecutor from Ms. Corey's office, which told them that Zimmerman offered to speak with them, but they said they wouldn't talk to him without legal representation. Corey's office also told Uhrig and Sonner that Zimmerman had characterized them as "legal advisers," not official attorneys.
The attorneys left open the possibility that they could represent Zimmerman in the future, but said communication would need to be reestablished. They also raised questions about his current mental state, with Uhrig suggesting he may be suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. "He's largely alone," Uhrig said. "He's at least emotionally alone."
Mr. Hannity has not revealed what he and Zimmerman spoke about in their off-the-record conversation. In another odd twist, the website Loop21.com on Tuesday published a series of e-mails that it said its reporter had had with Zimmerman. When asked to confirm he was in fact Zimmerman, the person e-mailing responded, "Certainly, You can contact Sean Hannity I spoke with him today and he confirmed my identity."
Over the weekend, Zimmerman launched a website – largely asking for donations to help with his defense – which his lawyers confirmed was authentic. At the press conference, they said they also had reservations about the site. "Him setting up his own website is fine," Sonner said. "I wish he would have told me.”
At this point, it's uncertain whether charges against him will be filed. On Monday, Corey said she would not bring the case before a grand jury, leading some to speculate that she's building a strong enough case to charge him directly